Earl Castor: Black Iguana started as an idea from parties in my backyard.

American, Earl Castor is the Managing Director of a newly introduced wine-based cocktail brand in Nigeria. He tells Bnlpulse Team of his expedition, the brand essence, chemistry and experience in Nigeria…..
The Black Iguana story….
I have lots of parties in my backyard and I love to make margaritas, so he I have my own special recipe for margaritas, and one day we were having some good times my friend said, ‘you know we going to mix up this margarita mixes and put it in a pouch.’ And looked at each other and knew that’s a good idea. That’s how it started.

There is a lot to a name, Why Black Iguana….
It was fun and not that easy to do. We had lots of different names before we came up with Black Iguana. We just didn’t like them. And one night, my friend and I that went to a school together, were out having drinks and having a good time in the bar. I said we’ve got to come up with a name for this product because we had already come pretty far, we had done the design of the pouch and got stuck. So my friend just mentioned Iguana as a kind of a good name. And I said, ‘but what about Black Iguana?’ And we kind of both looked at each other and said that sounds pretty cool. It couldn’t have been anything other black or green, because there are only green and black Iguana’s. We tested the name, everybody liked it and it stuck.

Sharing the experience from 2006….
It has had a very good reception. We took a lot of time working on the flavours, sand the quality of the product and this is where it is today.
You’ve been built momentum over the years and in six years down the line you’ve left the shores of America, now you are coming to Africa. Please walk me through the countries where the brand is currently active and what the billing is at the moment in terms of turnover.
Six-year period has taken us into expanding within United States to start with. So far, we’ve expanded to a lot of these states and during that time, we’ve seen interests from the UK, Australia, as well South Korea, South America and Nigeria, and that was why we brought it here. Nigeria is very unique, as you know that if you can get into Nigeria, then you can spread into other West Africa countries. But, it’s just like the United States where we’ve had to go through National Agency for Food and Drugs Control (NAFDAC), get all those permits to put things in place. So, the same thing applies to other countries, the same regulations and all.

In terms of global standards, in terms of procedures, in terms of rating, due process, where do you think Nigeria stands?
Quite clearly, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Control (NAFDAC) experience quite clearly is not as smooth as the experiences we have had in the United States of America. In the United States of America they list for you what you need to do, and once those things are done, you get your permits. But our experience here is not the same. But we got the permit anyhow, and we thank God for it.
What’s the brand personality of Black Iguana like; I mean if it were to be a human being, how would it be?
A gentle man! That’s it. Fun-loving gentleman. Very gentle.
This is your first experience in Nigeria?
This is my first trip, and I am only here for a few days. The experience has been very exciting.
What’s it been like in 48hrs?
Very exciting, the people are great. The people here are very friendly. I’ve got great friends taking care of me. I have seen traffic. But we have traffic in Houston too. As for power, I have seen some power outages.
The food is really good. But I have had some from my friend, Dr. Sam, who has lived in the United States of America for forty years. He cooks Nigerian food in his house in Houston and he invites us over and we all enjoy it. So, I have got used to them. Very spicy also.
Have you tried our local meals?
Yes. We went to several places. We even had yam this morning.
How about swallows?
I had that in London when I visited Dr. Olatoye in London. I’ll try anything.
You will try anything?
Absolutely! I like food.

On the whole, how do you see the brand penetrating the Nigerian market?

We’ve got our marketing firm helping us trying to understand this market. So, we are counting on our marketing firm here for market penetration.
Like we did say at the launch, the state at which the activities of the brand are now, is what you can call a test-marketing stage. In the sense that, we’ve been selling in quite a number of places in the last one year. Activations have taken place in at least 40 clubs in Lagos as we speak now. We’ve also gained access into at least 10 super markets, where the product is being solid currently.
Now, because it’s an international brand that was not developed here, there is a need for us to get response from the market; one, in terms of flavor preferences and reactions to packaging. Now, those activities are within the test – marketing period which is coming to an end as we speak now.Having gone through that, we have been able to identify the appropriate strategies for distributions, even for the promotions that we want to do. And we thought that at this stage, the most important group that we need to open this up to initially was the media. And we think that if we begin to build some authenticity around it through media exposure, by the time we are ready to launch, there would have been some awareness. Like we discovered during the activations that we did, there are a lot of people that are well travelled who already know about the brand.

So, is Black Iguana fully now in Nigeria? Where can I get it from?
Of course you know that Texas has quite a significant population of Nigerians. So, there are Nigerians who are shuttling in and out of Texas all the time. So, I believe that in some of those travels they must have come across the brand. So, plans are being put in place. We are being very strategic in thinking about the leg to put forward. We are discussing already with channels of distribution to ensure availability. We have checked the issues of pricing and all of that to tell you how expensive the process was in trying to put a marketing strategy and direction together. So, in the next couple of weeks, I won’t say months, there will be a little bit more visibility in the market.
Does the brand in anyway address health concerns?
Yes, with the rising health concerns about alcohol consumption and all kinds of hard stuff around, I believe this is good a good option for you to indulge in without the attendant fallout of consuming the things that are on the other side. It’s a wine-based cocktail with a smoothness that characterizes it as opposed to the harshness that characterizes the others. It is a lot more tolerable by the system and if you know how wine works with the system even from a health perspective, it is not something that is that injurious to the system. So, for the first time, having a wine-based cocktail I think that’s good news for people to still feel free without the fears of having the entire attendant health crisis that may go with consuming alcohol-based products.
I think it’s important to mention that the brand has been successful in Houston. It’s been around for the past six years. It’s in retail outlets in Houston as we speak. This experience in Nigeria is not a trial and error, but an ongoing concern that is successful in a particular locations- Mexico, Australia, United Kingdom and South Africa.

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