CBL expands footprint in Bangladesh

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CBL Munchee Bangladesh, the flagship biscuit brand of Ceylon Biscuits Ltd (CBL) has set up a chocolate manufacturing plant in Bangladesh to capture the Bangladeshi chocolate market.

This is in line with its expansion strategy in this country after establishing themselves in the biscuit sector, Prashanthan Pathmanathan, Chief Financial Officer CBL Munchee Bangladesh, told the Business Times in Dhaka recently.

Having entered the Bangladeshi biscuit sector by incorporating the company in 2009, CBL started operations in 2014 after building the factory.

The company recently started its chocolate plant in Bangladesh to produce Ritzbury chocolate, which is a famous brand in Sri Lanka, Mr. Pathmanathan said. He noted that the chocolate market in the country is led by imports such as Cadbury and Ferrero Roche. Noting that 90 per cent of chocolates are captured by the imported brands, he said the country does not have a good locally manufactured chocolate, which will be their target market.

Bangladesh, with its 160 million strong population, has an immense potential in the confectionaries business. Hence, the decision to expand to Bangladesh by CBL. Compared to Sri Lanka ‘s 22 million population, Bangladesh is seven to eight times bigger. “At the time, the Bangladesh economy was growing and during this time we had started operations in India as well. So, the next closest country the company was to expand, where the culture and the economy are the same along with the requirements of people was Bangladesh,” Mr. Pathmanathan said.

CBL was constantly capturing the market and making great strides. However, during the pandemic, like in all companies, CBL had faced many challenges in terms of price hikes, the currency depreciation and sourcing raw material imports. “Therefore, the growth slowed, but now we are recapturing the market and competing with local giants who have been in Bangladesh for five to six decades. The main advantage that we have is that our products are considered premium range compared to others in the confectionery sector,” Mr. Pathmanathan said.

Munchee is also aiming to move into the hard dough categories, such as in Marie biscuits and Cream crackers. The company, while moving forward with the biscuits market, is trying to capture the chocolate market as well, Mr. Pathmanathan said, noting that compared to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh can be considered as a ‘gold mine’ mainly due to the population power.

The company also has plans to export to neighbouring nations of Bangladesh with which the country has trade agreements with such as Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan and even India.

“We will have a less transportation cost advantage when exporting to these countries as they are neighbours of Bangladesh. So, this is an area we are exploring,” Mr. Pathmanathan added.