The Sunday Leader

CBL — In A Class Of Its Own

By Piyumi Buddhakorala

Nandana Wickramage and Theja Peiris (Deputy Marketing Manager – Munchee) receiving the Brand of the Year – Gold from Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. Nandana Wickramage (Group Director / Head of Marketing and Sales - CBL) is also in the picture

A company while being profitable needs to make a difference in society. Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) is one such fine example.
At the recently concluded SLIM Brand Excellence Awards 2010, CBL bagged no less than six awards during the night. Munchee was awarded Gold medals for Brand of the Year, Product Brand of the Year for the seventh time, Local Brand of the Year, Export Brand of the Year, Silver medal for CSR Brand of the Year and Ritzbury was awarded a Bronze in the product brand category.
Walking through the glass doors of the CBL factory one breathes in the air of success with its many surrounding trees and greenery that surely puts the mind at ease.
Speaking to Group Director and Head of Marketing and Sales Nandana Wickramage, The Sunday Leader was able to learn about the story behind such accomplishments.  Launching into the details of CBL’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project, Wickramage explained the significance of the programme.
Through ‘Munchee Tikiri Shishyadara’ CBL aims to concentrate on education. It is quite evident that there are vast numbers of drop outs in rural areas, mainly due to the lack of financial support. Teaching is free, stationary and clothing items required to attend school are not. Many orphans are stranded. CBL has allocated a team of workers who identify such issues, island wide and aims to provide necessary facilities for children in need. 1,600 children thus far, have been placed back in school. These children have been under the guidance and support of CBL since the year 2003 and The Sunday Leader learns that today, many of them are in university, some in Medical College, Engineering Faculty and Management Faculty.
“The future of our country lies in the quality of its people. We believe that it is the children of today who will take over the country tomorrow. It is our humble duty to help as many children as we can. We see no point in the development of an organisation if society does not develop alongside it. The general public needs upgrading and CBL has made it its vision and goal to ensure that it does,” proclaimed Wickramage.
In addition, CBL has the ‘Munchee Hapana Shishyathva Vadamulu’ project which targets the Grade Five scholarship students. Teaching is organised in places in the North and East where workshops are conducted for over 2000 students weekly. Another such project targets the students preparing for their Ordinary Level (O/L) examinations where workshops are conducted all over the country with more than 25,000 students participating.
‘Nanamedura’ is a project undertaken by CBL in which a library near its factory in Pannipitiya has been built for the use of the public including an auditorium which maybe be used for vocational training, etc.
Yet another project of CBL is ‘Munchee Samaga Gamata Sarana’ where basic needs in a handicapped area are fulfilled. For instance, CBL has learnt of 60 families in Kegalle who live with no proper road, with a mere footpath to walk across. Wickramage explains that children can only dress for school after reaching the roadside as the footpath muddies their attire. “It is rural to the point that the only visitors that village receives are the ministers during elections,” adds Wickramage. CBL has now constructed a ten feet wide road for the convenience of the villagers and school goers. “I suppose now the ministers can drive up in their Prados to collect their votes!” Wickramage says with a sardonic grin.
Having a financial year from April 1st to March 31st, CBL has registered 20% growth in the first quarter of the year compared to 2009. Of the company’s total revenue, 8-10% of it comes from exports and 5% from sales in the North and East. United States, United Kingdom, Middle East, Maldives, Australia and New Zealand are some of the countries CBL products are exported to. “We hold no double standards between the local and international market. Whatever we export is the very thing we give to the locals.”
CBL is the manufacturer of Ritzbury Chocolate, Samaposha nutritional supplementary foods, Tiara portion and family layer cakes, which runs in a fully automated factory (unique to CBL) and Cecil sisil organic foods and beverages. Wickramage firmly believes that with the profits of CBL invested back in the company, it stands strong as ever in the local corporate arena.
When questioned of the price increase in wheat flour and other commodities, Wickramage states that CBL strives to refrain from increasing market prices. “Even with the past recession, where other companies increased prices and reduced staff, we at CBL continued to give our staff of 2,500 their monthly increments and bonus’. In fact products such as Munchee Tikiri Marie only harm the company’s profit margins. Yet it is produced for the benefit of the poorer consumers.”
Deputy Marketing Manager Theja Peiris adds that a company such as CBL is unique for its opportunity based environment. Employees are encouraged to do more for the company in all aspects; production; supplies; finance; marketing; sales; engineering. “We are thankful to SLIM for providing us the opportunity to present our company to an expert panel of judges.” Peiris was awarded Grand Brand Champion of the Year for the second time at the SLIM Brand Awards along with two other brand champion awards. As the Brand Custodian of Munchee, Peiris was awarded the biggest personal accolade a Brand Custodian can receive at SLIM Brand Excellence.A brand which was initiated in 1968, CBL Munchee today commands a market share of 60%. Pursuing CSR projects at a depth much needed by society, CBL demonstrates the vitality of an organisation not merely by the quality of its products, but by the blessing of its people.
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History Of Ceylon Biscuits Limited

The foundation of Ceylon Biscuits Limited was laid in the year 1968 when the Care organisation of USA and the Government of Sri Lanka entrusted Ceylon Biscuits Limited to manufacture a high protein biscuit to supplement the mid day meal of school children. In the same year Ceylon Biscuits commenced commercial production of biscuits under the brand name Munchee.
In the year 1979, considering the high standards and quality of production maintained by the company, Associated Biscuits of United Kingdom joined hands as partners and commenced production of a variety of biscuits under the brand name Huntly and Palmer for both local and international markets and the association continued even after Nabisco’s take over of Associated Biscuits UK until Nabisco got fragmented.
Ceylon Biscuits manufactures a large variety of biscuits some of which are exclusive innovations marketed under the brand name Munchee.In the early ‘90s Ceylon Biscuits successfully ventured into other food manufacturing such as a range of chocolates, chocolate coated products and a range of hand molded specialty chocolates under the brand name Ritzbury. With the professional inputs of many qualified and experienced food technologist who are full time involved in research and development, Ceylon Biscuits Limited earned a reputation as an innovator of products.By the year 2000 Ceylon Biscuits Limited had established its name and goodwill, and became a force to be reckoned with to its competitors.
With over three decades of solid achievement behind it, Ceylon Biscuits entered the new millennium with a vision, dynamism and confidence. Indeed, it heralded the dawn of the most momentous era in the company’s history, one that would see it become an icon of Sri Lankan success.
This was the year Ceylon Biscuits invested in a public quoted company manufacturing soy nuggets. Although the company, Soy Foods was running in to heavy losses the management of Ceylon Biscuits was able to assess the potential and was confident of a turnaround.
In the year 2001, the management of Ceylon Biscuits drew up a five year strategic plan. The objectives: to accelerate growth and become the market leader in all sectors of operation.The main focus was on Munchee. The opening salvo was the re-launch of Lemon Puff. The new Munchee Lemon Puff brought an unprecedented standard of taste and quality to an old favourite. It was backed by a powerful communication campaign.
The results were overwhelming – almost overnight, Munchee had the nation’s preferred Lemon Puff in the white pack, grabbing significant share from the main competitor.And it boosted Munchee’s reputation and prestige to new heights.That same year, Lankasoy revolutionized the soy market. It introduced a range of soy products in three different categories – ‘Malusoy’, ‘Chickosoy’ and ‘Vegesoy’.
This innovative, consumer-friendly strategy enabled Lankasoy to move up from fifth to second position in this highly competitive market and were able to turnaround Soy Foods from a loss making company to a profitable business enterprise. Ritzbury too shifted into top gear. With its many innovative chocolate product lines — Pebbles, Safari, Chit-Chat, Chunky Choc – Ritzbury brought consumers a varied and thrilling chocolate experience.
At the onset of 2002, the Munchee brand had become a strong number two.The newly re-launched Lemon Puff had become category leader, along with Chocolate Cream and Nice.
The next big opportunity was the Cream Cracker market. This was a formidable challenge since the main competitor had a very strong grip in this category, with the market share of over 80%. But by this time Munchee had developed a far superior Cream Cracker. It had the ideal taste and texture. And uniquely, it was enriched with vitamins.
This was made possible by a skilled and trained R&D and production team and a state-of-the-art manufacturing line obtained from Europe. On the marketing front, a critical decision was taken. Munchee would move its Cream Cracker away from the generic platform of being a biscuit for adults and convalescents. It was called Super Cream Cracker appealing to all age groups.
This product was launched with massive burst of communication support. It was made available to the retail trade throughout the entire country within seven days. And it took the market by storm. Within a few months of the launch of Super Cream Cracker, Munchee became the market leader in biscuits. To signify its position as the undisputed leader in biscuits, which is the largest segment in the confectionery category, the crown icon was introduced to the logo along with the tag line ‘Rasa Lowa Raja Kirula’.
The Year 2003 was also fruitful for Ceylon Biscuits.
The company became the first biscuits and chocolates manufacturing company in Sri Lanka to attain ISO 14001 environmental Management Certification.Strengthening Munchee’s position was the re-launch of Ginger, the product reformulated to suit local tastes.
Lankasoy established its position as the market leader.
Ritzbury became a challenger brand to the top two competitors in the chocolate market. By this time Ceylon Biscuits had grown to be amongst the top five companies in FMCG.
The year 2004 was another landmark for Ceylon Biscuits.
The company ventured in to a completely new category, introducing long shelf life cakes for the first time in Sri Lanka under its newly formed subsidiary CBL Foods International Pvt Limited which received BOI status.
Its modernized factory purpose built at Ranala, 25 km away from Colombo with a massive investment of over Rs. 1.5 bn in plant and machinery became the talk of business circles.In another first for the confectionery industry, it utilized clean room technology where the products are manufactured in an entirely sterile environment. Production facilities of Ritzbury chocolates were also shifted to same location.
Tiara Cakes became the newest brand in the Ceylon Biscuits portfolio. Under this name, portion packed sponged cakes for individual consumption were introduced to the market for the first time. It was an instant success, which was soon followed by swiss rolls and family layer cakes.That year, Ceylon Biscuits also ventured into fruit based manufacturing industry under the brand name Cecil with its take over of Cecil Foods Pvt Limited which manufactured organic fruit based products such as dehydrated fruits, beverages, fruit cocktails and canned fruit products.Cecil organic products are certified by SKAL – Netherlands leading international certifiers of organic products.Cecil could ensure a continuous supply of organic fruits through its backward integration with a farmer base of over 3,000. Cecil showed great potential to enhance the company’s position in the export sector.
During the same year, Munchee launched Chocolate Puff, creating yet another revolution in the biscuit industry.This year Munchee received Super Brands status. The brand Ritzbury became the no. two brand in the chocolate market.The year was capped by the launch of the new CBL corporate logo, and the  introduction of the anthem for the company, titled – The CBL Family.
The Year 2005 built CBL’s story of success
The introduction of innovative products continued to storm the markets and the growth proceeded at a rapid pace. The launch of Ritzbury Pop-it, Chocolate coated rice crispy was an industry first. The year 2006 saw the acquisition of the Samaposha brand, adding another market leader to the Ceylon Biscuits brand portfolio.Although Samaposha was the market leader in the nutritious food products segment, its manufacturer Plenty Foods Pvt Ltd., was not operating profitably. With the implementation of CBL’s management practices and streamlining of the supply chain, Plenty Foods became a profit making company within a very short time.
Samaposha also has a well streamlined backward integration programme with a farmer base of over 12,000.This year came the most prestigious award of all – the National Quality Award. CBL then embarked on a landmark initiative to automate the entire sales force. It remains the most comprehensive sales automation system in the country.
Another distinction is the fact that CBL sales automation system was totally designed and developed by its own team of IT professionals.The Company stepped over to the year 2007 with a phenomenal achievement. All brands under CBL had become market leaders in its respective categories.Exports had also increased significantly making CBL the largest exporter of confectionery and fruit based products in the country with its brands available in over 40 countries worldwide. Positioned as premium products under the brand name CBL Munchee, the products were storming the Indian Market, setting new standards in the Indian confectionary industry.
Throughout all these years the company has continued to contribute to the welfare of our society with dedication and commitment, and without undue fanfare.Since the turn of the millennium, Ceylon Biscuits has been continuously bestowed with many national awards as well as national and international certifications.
In the Year 2008, Ceylon Biscuits stepped into its fifth decade in business.Today, the company has grown to be a national leader, distinguished by a confident vision, relentless innovation, unsurpassed quality, and a steadfast commitment to its stakeholders and society at large.

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