Interview with Ms. Séverine Gagneraud, CEO of Pepper Bay Company Limited
1. Could you please tell us about Pepper Bay? And how long have you been operating in Cambodia?
Pepper Bay is a producer of organic Kampot pepper and other spices and was founded in 2016. It employs approximately 60 permanent staff and many more during harvest season. With its 41,000 Kampot pepper plants growing on 25 hectares of land, it is considered one of the largest organic farms in the Protected Geographical Indication area. Pepper Bay's products are certified organic for Europe, North America, and Japan. The company's specialists provide modern expertise while respecting traditional cultivation methods to produce a pepper of excellence.
2. What are the opportunities you have identified in your operation/business in Cambodia?
Cambodia is a country where the workforce is young, more and more qualified, motivated, and willing to learn. All these qualities contribute to creating a positive and stimulating work environment. We also feel that Kampot pepper, which is the most renowned Cambodian agricultural product along with Jasmine rice, will help boost Cambodia’s reputation as a producer and exporter of high-end quality agri-products.
3. When you first started your company, what were the challenges you encountered?
As a Kampot pepper producer, we were quickly confronted with the” unfair” competition of counterfeit and low-quality products. Obtaining the Protected Geographical indication certification at the European level was a great opportunity in terms of visibility for Kampot pepper, but it also disrupted the market. Another challenge we faced was the lack of hindsight on organic Kampot pepper production, due to the fact that it was only recently re-launched, and mainly as a non-organic product.
4. How has your company/business been affected by the pandemic? What are your strategies to overcome challenges and become resilient?
The first effect of the pandemic was the sudden disappearance of tourism, which deeply affected the local market for Kampot pepper sales. We, therefore, had to focus on exports only. However, as tourism was nearly non-existent, transportation costs grew dramatically. We are therefore trying to find storage facilities closer to our customer base, but again, organic products have to be transported and stored in precise conditions, so it can be a challenge.
5. As your company is producing the organic Khmer pepper, what is your view on Cambodia’s agriculture sector in the future?
As organic producers of pepper, we are happy to see that more and more farmers are trending towards organic production, not only in pepper but also in other fields. We gladly share our experience with smaller farms within the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association. We also think that Cambodian agri-products will become increasingly renowned internationally, thanks to the rise in quality standards, and to the Government’s efforts to promote Cambodian farming products for export.
6. What advice would you give a foreign organization looking to expand into the Cambodian market?
I could only advise being patient because things tend to take more time here. Another piece of advice would be to have a strong sourcing structure able to source products internationally as local options can be limited, in terms of packaging, for example.
7. From your perspective, what do you think your company will look like in the next five or 10 years?
We are putting a lot of effort into the creation of new products, not only Kampot pepper products but also other spices, while guaranteeing a very high level of quality. Many world-renowned chefs like to innovate themselves; they are therefore looking for different products. We are putting a lot of emphasis on research right now, and hope that in 5 to 10 years, Pepper Bay’s products will be on the best tables worldwide! From a human resources point of view, we are aiming at giving more and more responsibilities to our Cambodian management so they can achieve greater autonomy in all fields.