HEALTHY RETURNS

Jamaica 2018 | AGRIFOOD & INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Nayana Williams and Devon Williams, Directors of Lifespan, on employing the natural resources in Portland, expanding operations, and promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Nayana Williams Devon Williams

What is the vision behind Lifespan?

NAYANA WILLIAMS We started Lifespan 12 and a half years ago in Portland, Jamaica after we returned from the US. We did our research and found that water was a natural resource available in abundance in Portland; however, it was not being adequately distributed. We decided to take advantage of that market and established Lifespan, also with the objective of assisting the local community and creating jobs. There was no concept like ours in Jamaica. The water we sourced was naturally alkaline, which no one else had. We decided to capitalize on this—that is how we marketed our brand.

What opportunities do you see to further develop your business?

NW Currently, our bottled water is not as widely distributed as we would like. This has to do with our production capacity being restricted by our equipment and space. However, we do have land space of over 40 acres and about seven springs. One of our springs has a flow rate of over 1,000 gallons of water per minute. Lifespan has been growing organically since we started the company. Now we are at the point where we satisfy the market and do some exports, though we want to go at it on a larger scale. This would mean getting an investor or going public.

What is Lifespan's current market share?

NW We are at about 30% of the local market. Over the last five years we have grown over 4,000%. We can still grow organically. But to get to the point where we can really market outside Jamaica on a larger scale, we definitely need a capital injection. We currently export to a few Caribbean islands; however, I see where we can get into the US and other Latin American countries. Another possibility is Europe and the Middle East, which are ripe for products such as ours.

What is Lifespan's unique selling point compared to other international bottled water brands?

Devon Williams The island of Jamaica is pure and entirely green. That is a big plus for us. Our water source is as perfect as it can be. Therefore, we do not do a lot of processing. Also, having naturally alkaline water is very rare. Importantly, we are close to a harbor, just 18 miles away, an asphalt road, and located at the base of the mountain. We are easily accessible.

Do you partner with the government to promote a healthier lifestyle in Jamaica?

NW We try to do this with every opportunity we get. Lifespan is a great example of a healthy product, which many others cannot claim. We work with the Ministry of Health; we partner in health fairs and fun-runs; we organize the annual 007 swimming competition; and in 2017 we invited several Olympians to participate. We promote sports tourism in Jamaica and have aligned our brand with that.

What are your current projects at Lifespan?

DW At present, we are about to move into the five-gallon business on a larger scale and want to double our income from this segment in 2018. We employ over 100 people and will expand our warehouse space by 14,000sqft. We are also installing solar energy. We will be hooked up to the net billing system. Having solar will also help greatly with our downtime because to complement the system we are putting in a generator to run the plant if the power goes out.

What target do you have for external funding to expand Lifespan's operations?

NW We are considering putting up at least 20% of the company in 2018 to raise USD5 million in investment, so we can carry out our expansion plans. However, at the moment, we are still assessing the options.