Nestlé’s market head for the Anglo-Dutch Caribbean Region Josué De La Maza

Nestlé’s market head for the Anglo-Dutch Caribbean region Josué De La Maza has admitted the company did not get it right the first time it tried to introduce paper straws to accompany their drinks locally, but they are committed to getting it done properly for the sake of the environment.

On October 23 as part of global efforts to make 100 per cent of its packaging either recyclable or reusable by the year 2025, Nestlé T&T revealed it had ceased production using plastic straws.

Unfortunately, some consumers had issues with the paper straws that replaced the plastic ones.

De La Maza addressed the issue during an interview with the Sunday Business Guardian.

“I tell you for example the paper straws. We did not get it right the first time. The paper straws were not ideal, they were a bit soggy, so we had to come back and to go to a little bit harder paper straws,” De La Maza said.

“The fact is that we are going to have the paper straws we just have to do a good job in communicating to our consumers that this is why we are doing it and we are all in this together. When we change the world we have to hold our hands and do it,” he said.

The transition to paper straws is expected to help eliminate approximately 45 million plastic straws from the environment annually.

The company’s paper straw innovation represents an 89 per cent reduction in plastic used in traditional plastic straws at the Valsayn factory.

The transition to a paper straw wrap, which encases the paper straw on the packs, is also already in the works.

De La Maza said the paper straws initiative is just one of several “investments” to the environment being undertaken by Nestlé as part of its plans to halve its global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Locally, Nestlé has already moved half of its fleet to lower emission vehicles, he said.

De La Maza said Nestlé also intends to tackle sustainable packaging solutions.

“We have sometimes rather large sachets for our products. This is historic, you use your sachet you have seasoning inside, you have a soup inside, and you have certain sizes of sachets and this occupies a certain space on the shelf so it is important also from an impact perspective, so you stand out but we have commitments in this sense so we are making our sachets smaller,” he said.

“So we are reducing the amount of material that we use for this kind of product and this implies that we have to redesign and we have to communicate to people that we have to explain to people that it is not that we are taking product out but we are moving forward in this direction,” De La Maza said.

Nestlé T&T was also able to achieve zero waste to landfill.

“If you put it in a nutshell it means that no waste from this factory goes to the dump. Either we recycle, we incinerate, we reinvent, or we sell it to another supplier who will use it as fuel,” he said.

De La Maza said this year was the first full year this has been implemented.

Nestlé also has an effluent wastewater treatment plant, located at its factory in Valsayn which ensures that wastewater generated by its factory meets all environmental parameters and strict quality targets before being discharged into the environment.

De La Maza said T&T and the Caribbean have always been important for Nestlé.

“Not because of the huge critical mass but on a per capita basis sales here in the Caribbean have always been relatively high. Our footprint is important,” he said.

De La Maza said while the global supply chain issues have been affecting Nestlé, the team has been meeting the challenges head-on.

“The supply chain on a worldwide basis is really pressured and that is a fact. We are a company that actually imports from 25 different sources so we import from the US, Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. We have a vast portfolio and we import from all of these places,” he said.

“And we export to 22 different countries from T&T and our factory is a strong factory. We have juices, we have evaporated milk, we have milks and all of these we proudly export from here so you can imagine that our supply chain complexity is big, importing from so many sources and exporting to so many sources it is a very complex and big challenge,” De La Maza said.

De La Maza said this makes the Anglo-Dutch Caribbean region for Nestlé “special.”

“This supply chain challenge that we are facing has shown that although we are challenged our people have looked for alternative sources, looked for alternative transportation sources, rescheduled, changed the volumes, change the source, gone back and forth, reinvented ourselves constantly and I will say yes we are on emergency mode in a certain way and we were having to deal with these kinds of things but given the challenge, I would say we have relatively been okay,” he said.

“I cannot say that we lost one thing or the other. Yes, we have had shortages here and there but nothing that has impacted the business or our consumers in an important way,” he said.

Earlier this week Nestlé was named the Manufacturer of the year large 2020 by the T&T Manufacturers’ Association.

Last month it won the award for Excellent HSE Performance in the Manufacturing Sector (Large Company Category) from the American Chamber of Commerce T&T.

De La Maza, who was appointed Nestlé’s market head for the Anglo-Dutch Caribbean Region,on September 1, said he was proud to lead a winning team.

He said overall Nestlé has done “reasonably well” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The impact of the pandemic depends on the product category we are talking about. We have some product categories that are mostly for in-home consumption and these categories for in-home consumption have actually grown and have had a lot of success these years because people are more at home,” he said.

Soups and coffee are among the items listed under in-home consumption products.

“At the same time categories that are more for outside consumption like juices have struggled because businesses are closed, services are closed and beaches are closed,” he said.

“I would say overall Nestlé has done reasonably well during this period both at a global level and also at a local level but we have had to adapt and we have had to really work through that,” De La Maza said.

During the pandemic, De La Maza said Nestlé launched over 100 new products and new packaging formats.

“We launched a whole line of liquid seasoning under the Maggi brand, and the jerk sauce, and pepper sauce and that is powerful in its own right,” he said.

“We introduced plant-based drinks, all this came during the pandemic so you know this situation made us as an organisation say we need to get on our feet we need to be on top of things we need to be proactive and that is something we have to be proud of,” De La Maza added.

He said customers can look to even more surprises in the coming year.

De La Maza’s career with Nestlé spans more than 25 years, with leadership roles in five countries across two continents.

He began as a marketing professional in Mexico in 1995.

Since then, he has held business and commercial positions in Vevey, Switzerland, at Nestlé’s Global Headquarters, and in Latin America, including: Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication for Nestlé Argentina; Head of the Dairy Business Unit and Commercial vice-president for Central America based in Panama; Vice-president of Sales for Mexico; and Head of Global Sales and e-Commerce for Nestlé Worldwide in Vevey.

His most recent post was in Nestlé Brazil, one of the largest markets for the Group, first as Country Manager of the Infant Nutrition Division where he led the turnaround of the Business, and subsequently as vice-president of Corporate Sales.