__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

“Art is personal but I love to share my knowledge.�


Contents CONDIMENTS AND SPICES

10 20 26 34 40 48

Sonya Dunstan A TASTE OF THE CARIBBEAN

Micheal Moodie PORTLAND AUTHENTIC JERK

Tracia Campbell TRICAM PROCESSORS

Desmond Barrett TAMBEEZ TAMARIND JAM

Yvonne Fredrick HONEY JUST APIARIES

16 22

30 36 46

Randal Clarke RIPPLE EFFECT

June Gottgens UMIUM LTD.

Dennis Hawkins SPUR TREE JAMAICA LIMITED

Samantha Fung SAMMY’S JAMS

Shauniel Whiteley OJI JAJA

Richard Mcleish SPRING ENTERPRISE

SWEET TREATS & SNACKS

54 60 68

Lise-Ann Harris TREAT CONFECTIONERY

Averall & Hellen French COLD BUSH ORGANICS

Dwayne Dillon NIC’S PASTRIES

58 64 74

Domonic McDowell DAM GOOD ENTERPRISES

Ivy Gordon

JEFFERY TOWN FARMERS ASSOCIATION

Audrey Reid PLANTAIN CURLS ENTERPRISE LTD


76 82

Michelle Smith CHOCOLATE DREAMS

78

Partria-Kaye Aarons SWEETIE CONFECTIONERY

Yvonne Chin EC’S KOCONUTZ LIMITED

Beverages

86

Oral & Allison Turner

90

Ricardo Forbes ROCKSTEADY MOUNTAIN LTD

TUNER’S INNOVATIONS

92

J. BULLOCK & SONS (SPIRITZ RUM PUNCH)

96

JOURNEY’S END WINE

104

SHAVUOT INTERNATIONAL HOLDING

110

John Bullock

100 106 112

Howard Coxe

Joel Harris

Grace Foster-Reid ENVIRONMED LTD

Paul Atkinson ROCK FARMS

Normman Wright PERISHABLE JAMAICA

Publisher - Jamaica Business Development Corporation Producer - eMedia Interactive Limited

Richard Kildare EG WELLNESS

Editor-in-Chief & Creative Director - Zinzi Samuels Photographer - David Newland Layout Artist - Ronaldo Russell & Sean Wong Creative Assitant - Melissa Martin Light Technician - Raven Reid Project Coordinator - Jeneque Pinnock Model - Alexan Stewart Contributing Writer - Tracey-Ann Wisdom

True Stories | 3


Preface It is said that a picture tells a story of a thousand words. This catalogue is about telling the rich stories of the products of our local producers in the Gift and Craft sector. There are stories of the traditions of reaping and processing of raw material that makes each piece the cradle of a part of Jamaican history. The producers include the young, who are the beneficiaries of skills passed down through generations, who have accepted the awesome responsibility of ‘caregiver and nurturers’ of our culture. Those who through their experimentation and adventure with technology, have combined the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ and have introduced innovative and exciting product lines. There is of course, that special group, the Master Craftsmen, who continue to inspire with their product collection, with each having its own script to tell a tale. These individuals form the essence of the North Coast Craft Revitalization Project (NCCRP), a collaborative effort between the JBDC and the Tourism Enhancement Fund. The Project was aimed at improving the competitiveness and income generating capabilities of craft producers in the North Coast Region of the island, specifically in the parishes of St. Ann, St. James and Trelawny. The project, implemented over two years was managed by the Project Management and Research Development Department of the JBDC. Implementation of Project activities was led by Technical Services and Business Advisory Services, while Things Jamaican provided support in Product Development and also led the implementation of market access activities. ‘True Stories’ represents a bold statement by the producers that they have an interesting and impressive story to share and they are open for business. Through our intervention, the hope is that both the Producers and the buyers will benefit from the encounter. Valerie Veira, J.P.

CEO, Jamaica Business Development Corporation


Introduction W

hat comes to mind when you hear the term ‘Jamaican

food?’ A hot beef patty, sandwiched in a butter coco bread, washed down with an ice-cold Ting? Curried chicken or goat served on a bed of aromatic white rice? Pepper ‘swims’ bought from a roadside vendor in St. Elizabeth? A slice of sweet potato or cornmeal pudding so dense you can’t eat it all in one sitting? Your grandmother’s mackerel run down recipe that no one else in the family can replicate? The quintessential jerk or pan chicken man, serving up cuts of hot, spicy chicken or pork? Or is it all of the above and then some? Because Jamaican food is far from monolithic. It could never be, not when our motto is “out of many, one people,” indicating that our culture is a melting pot of African, European, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern influences.

pork, or maybe a bit of both? Generations gather around the dining table to eat and share and catch up on each others lives, before the rush of the work and week begins at the crack of dawn on Monday.Jamaican food is also international, as the thousands of visitors who flock t o our shores forsun, sea and sand also love to take home our Blue Mountain coffee, rums, snacks orsamples of our seasonings and spices. There are also hundreds of Jamaican or Jamaican-style restaurants dotted around the world, many of them owned by our

And there are still traces of ancient Taino practices from the first known inhabitants of this land,

countrymen and countrywomen who have migrated.

like jerk. Many people attribute this to the Maroons, but the

There are many stories to tell about Jamaican food, and we

practise is actually an adaptation of the Taino method of curing meat-- typically wild boar-- with a slow burning wood

are pleased to share with you the accounts of 29 producers

fire in pits dug into the ground. Cooking the meat underground prevented smoke from rising and

in this the second edition of True Stories magazine.

betraying their mountain hideaways to the British soldiers

There areconfectioners, sauciers, chocolatiers, bakers,

hunting them down to return them to slavery. This method of roasting the pork also trapped moisture into the meat, leaving it juicy and tender, just the way we still like it today. Jamaican food is about history, but it’s also about community. There is no after-work or Saturday evening friendly domino tournament complete without some nibbles, from roasted peanuts to jerk chicken or pork on foil paper, laden with ketchup or hot pepper sauce. And what can top a traditional Sunday dinner, with the rich flavours of rice and peas cooked in coconut milk, to be served with fried chicken or stewed

6 | True Stories

herbal tea makers and more. Some are carrying on family businesses, while others have started their own companies out of necessity. Some tookcalculated risks and others simply followed their hearts. Some runlarge-scale operations, while others have just moved out of their home kitchens. We hope you enjoy their stories, as they share their hearts, passions and favourite food-related memories and moments.


“They have an interesting and impressive story to share and they are open for business.� True Stories | 7


Condiments & Spices Jam | Sauces | Spreads | Dressing | Ketchup | Seasoning

8 | True Stories


True Stories | 9


Condiments & Spices

“The first time I did my June plum jam, it came out black. I burned the sugar too long.” SONYA DUNSTAN | A Taste of the Caribbean Ltd


S

onya Dunstan is proudly showing off the facility at

The Domes on Hagley Park Road in Kingston where she makes some of the products from A Taste of the Caribbean, the specialty foods company she founded in 1999. In one of the storage rooms, a radio blasts a throwback Buju Banton and Red Rat hit. She’s had that radio since she was 16 years old, a gift from her mother. It is obviously well cared for more than 30 years later. Sonya puts that same level of care into her work, ensuring that anyone who buys a Dunson’s product, Jamaican or visitor alike, receives value for money.

“The line of sauces.” Sonya’s parents were initially concerned when she Her career actually started in the food and beverage/ hospitality industry and she began to notice something a bit disquieting about the locally-made food items in the hotel gift shops: the packaging was “very poor” and some tourists were left disappointed by the selection available to them. Deciding to stop that gap herself, she soon resigned from her job and began making rum fudge, then old time Jamaican mint balls and tamarind balls, ensuring that the packaging matched the high quality of the product itself. Dunson’s still makes those products today, now with five

decided to pursue the arts in high school but she allayed their fears by studying hotel and tourism management at CAST, now UTech(University of Technology). It was there that she honed her food preparation skills, learned to do things outside the box and developed a taste for other foods. That’s not to say things always went according to plan in the kitchen when she started making her own products. “The first time I did my june plum jam, it came out black. I burned the sugar too long,” she

flavours of rum fudge. The mint balls are her best selling

laughed.

product. She has also expanded into jams, jellies, chutneys

The food industry is very competitive, with

and sauces, all utilizing the fruits, vegetables and spices grown right here in Jamaica. The line of sauces, her most recent venture, pays homage to our motto, ‘out of many, one people,’ and the various peoples and cultures that came together to make the Jamaica we know and love. There is a sweet and sour flavour inspired by the Chinese, a coconut curry flavour inspired by the Indians and brown stew, which is as Jamaican as it gets.

confectionery, condiments and sauces aplenty for customers to choose from. Sonya ensures that her products stand out not only in terms of the quality of the actual goods but the packaging as well. “I always tell my graphic artists that I want it to look like this: when I go into a Victoria’s Secret store and I want everybody to know that I wear Victoria’s Secret, I walk with the bag. It has to have that kind of hype look, that appeal,” she explained.

True Stories | 11


She has faced a number of challenges over the years, from the standard industry-related issues such as the high cost of raw materials, to health problems like a mild heart attack. She keeps going, eyes firmly set on her vision of getting her products into major supermarkets islandwide and taking the Dunson’s brand international. “I’m taking my time and growing it how I want it,” she said. True Story

12 | True Stories


“I’m taking my time and growing it how I want it.”

True Stories | 13


“ It has to have that kind of hype look, that appeal ”

14 | True Stories


True Stories | 15


“My grandmother used to make chocolate balls and sell in the Old Harbour Market.” RANDAL CLARKE | Ripple Effects


B

eing in prison was a big setback in my life. But

it’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get up again,” said Randal Clarke, reflecting on his troubled past that

make and sell old fashioned chocolate balls, like his

landed him a 10-year prison term in the United States.

grandmother used to do.

He has got back up nicely, turning his life around

There was no one to tend to the farm and

even while incarcerated - he got his GED and college

thieves were making off with the produce but his

credits, and used to tutor other inmates. It was tough

grandmother was not keen on his idea. “She curse me

being back in Jamaica following his deportation, as

out, say if me a go leave me job come work a bush,

it took three years before he could land a job. In the

if me mad,” he recalled. He went ahead, teaching

meantime, he supported himself by driving a taxi, the

himself how to make the chocolate balls until he got it

car a gift from a Good Samaritan, Miss Allen, who saw

right and his company, Ripple Effect, was born.

something in him worth nurturing.

His aunt Joycelyn helped him set up the business with

Earlier, he had taken refuge on his grandparents’ farm

a ‘last chance’ gift of US$1000 out of a partner draw

in Old Harbour, St Catherine, desperate to avoid the

and he later got loans from Jamaica National Bank,

triggers in his hometown of Luke Lane in downtown

First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union, and then the

Kingston. Since there wasn’t any way to make a

JBDC.

living there, except to join the marijuana farmers, he returned to Kingston to seek his fortune and met Miss Allen. He was working at Captain’s Bakery, barely surviving on the wages, when he got the idea to

“There is high demand for Ripple Effect products” True Stories | 17


18 | True Stories


After finding a market for the chocolate at SuperPlus Supermarket in Portmore Pines, he started packaging other herbs and spices and now sells 103 items including cerasee, peppermint, fever grass, rosemary, whole and grated nutmeg, pistachios, peanuts, almonds, pimento seeds, powdered chocolate, basil leaves, cinnamon powder, ground flaxseed, and more. He’s also moved into baking, with puddings, drops, gizzada and oatmeal cookies. Randal, a trained chef, does the baking himself, working at nights so that his production and packaging space is not uncomfortable during the day when his small staff comes in. He started this line of the business to help with cash flow in 2012. There is high demand for Ripple Effect products but since there are still cash flow issues, Randal is keeping it simple and sticking to a select few retailers, like HiLo and MegaMart. He still has big dreams for the future, though. “I want to be the first herbal company to be in every supermarket and I don’t mean like shelf space,” he said. “You go to MegaMart and you see Digicel or Flow that have their booths? I would like to own a booth in every supermarket, just selling Jamaican herbal stuff because I think there’s a market for it.” True Story


“Mrs. Moodie’s jerk is the best..” MICHAEL MOODIE | Portland Authentic Jerk Seasoning 20 | True Stories


N

o one knows jerk like a Portlander. After all, this

method of curing and roasting meat—perfected by the Maroons, began in the hills of that parish. Michael

‘‘Authentic Jerk Seasoning’’

Moodie, a native of Portland, knows more than a thing or two about jerk seasonings and sauces. Inspired by a television programme on the runaway success of UK-based Levi Roots and local manufacturers who do not have a connection to the source like he does, he decided to throw his hat into the ring and started Portland Authentic Jerk Seasoning with his wife Sonia in 2013. Michael is an accountant by profession, so when he and Sonia decided to start a business, they made sure it was properly registered and formalized. “Mrs. Moodie did her thing at home, we took the formulation to SRC, they tweaked it and having tweaked it, they asked us to invite friends and have them do a taste test and then we went back to them. They did the final thing and gave us basically a booklet with the formulation,” he shared. The first Portland Authentic Jerk Seasoning product was the spicy blend. A mild blend for those who can’t take the heat was developed later. Both versions of the product are available in supermarkets across the island, especially the smaller ones. Portland Authentic Jerk Seasoning is hungry for growth

As they aim to grow the business, he wants to do more promotion as well as become more competitive in terms of pricing. “If we can get more funding to set up our own facility and produce more units, then we will achieve the economy of scale and our costs will reduce and we can reduce our prices,” he said. The Moodies also want to add to the product line in future and Sonia is working on a red pepper sauce. They are also looking at venturing into offering prepacked jerk meals. “Mrs. Moodie’s jerk is the best,” he boasted. “She prepared some food using the jerk seasoning and sold it along with the Coronation bread from Port Antonio and it did so well that people wanted to know when they could get it.” True Story

locally and the Moodies are also keen on breaking into the US market. The company recently received FDA approval, so “we just need to get a customer now on the international market.” One thing holding the company back is a lack of funding. The family business, which features the Moodie children handling sales and promotion, is “not yet at the stage where it can pay any of us a salary. We have to do other things to supplement,” said Michael. The tight financial situation is also hampering production. They want to be able to rent a factory space for themselves or set up a small operation at home, as they are currently sharing production space at SRC with other producers.

“No one knows jerk like a Portlander” True Stories | 21


Trelawny

“Our packaging bears the Jamaican colours. When you see it, it’s bright, it’s vibrant, it’s irie.” JUNE GOTTGENS | Umium Ltd 22 | True Stories


J

une Gottgens loves to visit different countries

and soak up the various cultures. It was on a trip to Belgium with her husband in 2013 that the idea for their company, UMIUM, was born. “I was quite taken aback that they’re noted for being some of the best chocolatiers in the world but they don’t grow cocoa and I know Jamaica has had chocolate from the days of the Arawak Indians. So I said, ‘since we started with it, I think that we need to be in on this present-day industry,” she said.When they returned to Jamaica, one of her first stops was the Scientific Research Council to find out if they could make a formulation for her but that fell through for several reasons, including the fact that there was a ban on milk imports at the time. A few months later, they were off to Morocco, where another ‘aha!’ moment awaited them. “We found that there are ways to do natural products without adding all the modern day ingredients and have something that is quite authentic and healthy,” she said. “When we came back, we experimented with that. We took the cow’s

‘‘Jamaica has had chocolate from the days of the Arawak Indians.’’ True Stories | 23


milk out and replaced it with coconut milk.” They turned to a processor in Holland. By December 2014, they had samples of their chocolate spread in hand and the crowd at Market on the Lawn at Devon House ate it up. Following that, they approached the JBDC for assistance in properly establishing the company. The brand UMIUM was the brainchild of a panel of children, including their granddaughter, who were asked to come up with a name for the product. “When they tasted it, they said ‘Miss, this taste yummy! You have to call this Yummy Yummy.’ Our tagline is ‘UMIUM, because it tastes so yummy.’” UMIUM is pronounced ‘yoo-mi-yoom,’ as the children had pronounced ‘yummy’ as ‘yoomy.’ “We went with that pronunciation, because Yummy is already a registered trademark,” she explained. UMIUM has gone from one flavour to three-the flagship Coconut Chocolate, Roasted Almond Chocolate and Rum Chocolate. Each is low in sugar and high in antioxidants. The spreads are not yet widely available in Jamaica, only in a few hotels, at the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ outlets and online at thingsjamaica.com and umiumjamaica. com. “Purposely, we use Europe as our test market because that’s where we first started in terms of the idea and chocolate spreads for them is the same as butter or jam for Jamaicans,” she explained. June is keen on expanding the company’s reach, and she is targeting the United States of America as the family business’ next major market. “Right now we’re looking for partners in the US to see if we can also get into small manufacturing off-shore for ease of export,” she said. True Story

“Our tagline is ‘UMIUM, because it tastes so yummy.’’

True Stories | 25


St. Ann

“I remember my first experience seeing the sauce on the shelf.” TRECIA CAMPBELL | Tricam Processors 26 | True Stories


Trecia Campbell has always been determined and independent. After her first job out of high school failed to meet her expectations and she still had to rely on her parents for money, she chased the dream of selfimprovement all the way to CAST (now UTech), where she completed a diploma in banking and landed a job at Citizens Bank. Describing her drive as “aggressive,” Trecia kept upgrading her qualifications and moving up the corporate ladder for 20 years. One day, she realized

an uncle who owns a restaurant in New York put it

her career was no longer fulfilling and she just didn’t

plainly: “Season up yu sauce, man!”

like it anymore. “The bank was offering redundancy packages. I had applied twice and they never gave it to me,” she said. “I told them this time that I wanted to go do my masters and it is going to affect my job function, so I think it is a good time for them to give me the redundancy. I told them that I would come back and they agreed and I was made redundant.”

The next time she went to JBDC, the answer was yes, all across the board. TriCam Processors was now officially ready to go. There were some growing pains, as competition was stiff and her prices were too high. It was also tough to get her products on supermarket shelves but remember that aggression? She refused to take no for an answer, “annoying” one of the owners

Trecia eventually settled on the idea of going into

of Progressive Grocers until he finally took the time to

business for herself. She and her husband have a

taste test one of her sauces and passed it to his team

pepper farm in Mandeville and they thought about

to finalize distribution. “I remember my first experience

selling crushed pepper but she became more

seeing the sauce on the shelf. I passed it about six times

interested in sauces after some research. She worked

in the supermarket, wondering if I’m in dreamland,” she

on a formulation with the SRC but her spirits were

laughed. “Every day I would go in the supermarket and

temporarily crushed when she took it to Marketing

everybody I see, I would introduce them to it. That’s

Services at JBDC (Things Jamaican™) for assessment

how it started moving.”

and the feedback, although delivered with kindness, was that she needed to go back to the drawing board. Family members also encouraged her to try again and

Things plateaued after a while and Trecia’s spirits hit a new low but with some advice from a mentor at the Jamaica Manufacturers Association, she decided


not to give up. Since then, she has participated in a number of local and regional events, such as Caribbean Week of Agriculture, which was instrumental in helping her break into the Cayman Islands market. “I think that was the biggest success for me, because these are people I don’t know. They’re not friends, they don’t know my background, they don’t buy from me because they like me,” she said. Trecia still uses the SRC facility for production but has her sights set on her own factory space down the road. Until then, she is taking advantage of every opportunity that comes her way, from a co-packing arrangement with two competitors in the event of large orders, to JBDC training courses. Despite the ups and downs, she wouldn’t change a thing: “Watching my life transform into something else was really amazing.” True Story


True Stories | 29


“We still have a lot of markets that we haven’t looked at yet” DENNIS HAWKINS | Spur Tree Jamaica Limited


“Necessity is truly the mother of invention—or innovation”

N

ecessity

is truly the mother of invention—or innovation, since Mohan Jagnarine didn’t invent jerk seasoning. The former Mandeville restaurateur was left in a bind when his existing seasoning supplier passed away, so he started making his own version at nights in the back of the restaurant. That innovation was the seed that grew into Spur Tree Spices Jamaica Limited. Mohan also had a cousin in the US who had a restaurant and he too was in need of jerk seasoning from back home. Recognizing the business idea on his hands, his friend Anand James helped him get the equipment to make the seasoning faster and in larger quantities. Next, he sought out Dennis Hawkins, a former colleague at Island Grill from his days as Operations Manager. Spur Tree Spices received its first main order from GraceKennedy to supply jerk seasoning in 4x1 gallon cartons for the food service and hotel industries. From that, they moved into all-in-one products, such as curry and oxtail seasonings. The product range also includes pepper jelly, Reggae Table Sauce, Spice it Up Sauce, plus crushed red pepper and scotch bonnet sauces.

‘‘11 years in business and it has grown in many ways”

The bulk of Spur Tree Spices sales are made overseas. Eighty per cent of sales are in the US, primarily along the Eastern Seaboard. “We’re supplying food service sizes to a West Indian distributor there and we got an

True Stories | 31


“That innovation was the seed that grew into Spur Tree Spices Jamaica”


entry into Restaurant Depot, which is the 165-chain caterer and small shopkeeper cash and carry group nationwide,” said Dennis. “We also introduced a retail range, because people were asking for that.” Recognizing that they needed to make more inroads in the local market, the company introduced its new sachet line about two years ago. Much more economical than a $200-$300 jar, each sachet contains five ounces of wet seasoning, which can season a threepound chicken. “It also meant they could buy more flavours for the same amount as

one jar,” said Dennis. The strategy also included moving into distribution themselves in order to target smaller retailers and community wholesales islandwide. Spur Tree Spices is now closing in on 11 years in business and it has grown in many ways; from a 3,000 square foot facility to a 20,000 square foot operation at the Garmex Free Zone in Kingston and from three employees to 55. They have also won a number of awards from the Jamaica Exporters Association and the Jamaica Manufacturers Association. On the other hand, they have had to grow despite the dearth of reasonably priced loan options, as well as issues with red tape, especially with clearing containers at the wharf. From time to time, their raw materials are also impacted by weather patterns, which, in turn affects pricing. But Dennis is clear: “We’re not here to just turn a profit and make a margin on a container and move on to the next one. We’re here for the long run.” True Story

True Stories | 33


“I was cleaning out the cupboard and I saw this bottle with something that looked like prunes…” DESMOND BARRETT | Tambeez Tamarind Jam


S

even years ago, Desmond Barrett visited a friend in Cockburn

Gardens, who gave him some tamarinds. He ate some, but the fruit’s sourness became too much, so he ended up taking the leftovers to his mother’s house. He stripped off the outer shell and left them to ‘soak’ in some honey he found in the kitchen, thinking only to get some of the tartness out of the fruit so it would be easier to eat. And then he left and forgot all about it for almost eight months. Desmond’s mother was overseas for that time period, so the house was unoccupied. She was getting ready to come back to Jamaica, so the dutiful son started spring cleaning to welcome her home. “I was cleaning out the cupboard and I saw this bottle with something that looked like prunes, because it kinda take a dark colour. I remove it and smell it and it smell really good, really nice aroma. I didn’t realise it was the same tamarind that was inside the thing,” he said, chuckling at the memory. It tasted good too, according to friends and family members who tried the concoction. But he didn’t think of making anything out of it until his aunt in England urged him to contact the Scientific Research Council to find out if he could produce it commercially. A few months later, Desmond heeded her advice and met with SRC scientist Valmo Wynter, who produced two samples, one with honey and one with sugar. “The two of them tasted really good, but the one with the honey came close to the formula that I had,” said Desmond. The process cost a pretty penny—about $46,000. Desmond invested his savings of $18,000 into the venture, and eventually managed to cobble it together from various family loans, and Tambeez Tamarind Jam soon came into existence.The first production run consisted of 200 bottles, and Desmond hit the road with his tamarind-honey jam to drum up sales. Higglers and tourists alike at Hellshire Beach loved it and he was encouraged to take it to Carby’s Discount Centre and Craft Cottage Jamaica. It was in Craft Cottage that someone from the Jamaica Observer noticed the product, and it was nominated for a 2014 Observer Food Award in the Best Newcomer in Food category. Today, Tambeez Tamarind Jam can also be found in Brooklyn Supermarket and Fontana Pharmacy locations, as well as in the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ stores at the Devon House Corporate Store and the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. Desmond, who is still producing at the SRC, wants to expand into sauces using the tamarindhoney formula. He also wants to explore using other ingredients like

“It smell really good, really nice aroma.”

molasses, bee pollen and royal jelly, “but those are expensive.” The rising costs for his raw materials—honey and bottles—and production are putting a squeeze on his sweet dream, but the Kingston College graduate is forging ahead with the resources he has available. True Story True Stories | 35


“My girlfriend showed up and she brought this really intimidating bundle of sorrel.” SAMANTHA FUNG | Sammi’s Jams


‘‘I wonder if I could really try some of this sorrel to make some jam?’’

S

amantha Fung just wasn’t in the mood to make escovietch

pickle but her son had been prodding and pleading. It was only after he purchased a jar that was nowhere near as good as her homemade version that she reluctantly said yes. Finally getting his way, he left the house for about 45 minutes and came back toting about two dozen empty jars, Samantha recalled with a laugh. She protested again but she made the pickle, filled about half of the jars and her son sold them off in a flash. Samantha didn’t know it then, but her journey as an entrepreneur in the food industry had just begun. It was settled two weeks later when her friend brought over a “really intimidating bundle of sorrel,” still on the branches and she

formulations and decided to start with guava and orange coconut jams - the latter because she was looking for something new and different to grab people’s attention.

had to find something to do with all of it. “I remembered that

Samantha doesn’t have a background in food

as a girl, my mom taught me how to make guava jam, so I said,

preparation but like most Jamaicans, she has

‘I wonder if I could really try some of this sorrel to make some

a deep appreciation for good, fresh food.

jam?’ We had leftover bottles, so I just tried a thing with the

Growing up in Glasgow, Manchester, her father

sorrel,” she recounted.

was a farmer and her mother worked magic

Her son moved those sales just as quickly as he had the escoveitch pickle. By now, her interest had been piqued and she had stopped protesting. Sammi’s Gourmet Treats was now a reality and she worked with the SRC on a couple of

in the kitchen. The warmth of those memories is what she wants to share with each bottle of Sammi’s Gourmet Treats. The range of flavours now also includes sorrel, pineapple, tamarind, True Stories | 37


spicy tamarind, and pomegranate and java plum. The thing that started it all, escoveitch pickle sauce, has also recently joined the lineup. Sammi’s Gourmet Treats can be found in the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ outlets, as well as Mega Mart, Loshusan Supermarket, Lee’s Food Fair, Brooklyn Supermarket, Craft Cottage, ReggaeMart, and Hungry D’s Cafe. The main challenge Samantha faces right now is sourcing capital and there have also been times where


it has been difficult to source the fruits she needs, as well as jars and caps. She has big dreams for Sammi’s Gourmet Treats, including having her own production space, establishing a viable online business, getting her products into hotels and supermarkets outside of Kingston and export. She also hopes her son, who inadvertently started it all and is her right hand man in graphic design and marketing, will want to keep the business going and keep it in the family. True Story


HONEY

“My friends say we are creating a dynasty.” YVONNE FREDERICK | Honey Kist Apiaries


N

ever underestimate the power of a praying

mother. Two of Yvonne Frederick’s children were showing signs of frustration in their careers and like any good mother, she was concerned for their wellbeing. Michelle was an Architect and Project Manager working in Washington, D.C. and Malcolm was a Food Quality Control Specialist with a background in food and beverage management. She began to pray that a door would open with a new opportunity they could settle into.Soon enough, her prayers were answered when the opportunity came up to attend a 2008 ‘Opportunities in Agriculture’ workshop in St. Ann, which was focused on beekeeping. They delved deep into research, and with Malcolm’s background in the food processing industry an asset, they got to work setting up their first apiary with 15 hives.

True Stories | 41


HoneyKist Apiaries was officially started in December 2010 with the first production run. The HoneyKist Honey Fusions line features five flavours - Blue Mountain coffee, scotch bonnet pepper, ginger, lime and pimento. The business is family-owned and operated, as Yvonne, Malcolm and Michelle are the directors, handling marketing, sales & operations, respectively, with Michelle as the Managing Director. Export was the company’s main goal, so they worked with the JBDC on getting the packaging just right and the Bureau of Standards to meet all the necessary criteria. JAMPRO was also instrumental in getting them to attend the 2012 Fancy Foods Show in Washington, D.C., where major chains like Whole Foods expressed interest in their products. They were not able to meet the demands at that time, so they had to rethink strategy. The first move was to look for a place to set up a factory. One space they considered did not meet the standards and the rent was too expensive. The Fredericks headed to the country to look for space to build their apiaries and soon, friends began loaning them space on their estates. “One of the gentlemen had an orange estate and he said with the bees there, his crops really increased,� she said. Four months later, a space that had already fallen through in Golden Grove, St. Ann, would come back to them.

True Stories | 43


CARVINGS The family also turned its attention to the local market and one of their targets was hotel gift shops. Yvonne recalled, with a touch of embarrassment in her voice, the “bold-faced” way she approached Sandals CEO

“I just stood up and waited on him and then put my arms out and said ‘Please, you cannot leave here until I tell you about our products”

Adam Stewart at a Christmas in July pre-event meeting. “He was talking to someone from the JMA and I just stood up and waited on him and then put my arms out and said ‘Please, you cannot leave here until I tell you about our products.’ That approach would stop anybody,” she laughed. It worked, as he took her card and eventually, someone from his team met with her. The Fredericks are ramping up marketing efforts to drive local sales and participating in exportdriven shows and expos to capitalize on opportunities overseas. Yvonne acknowledged that the funds aren’t always there to do everything they want and they


“they got to work setting up their first apiary with 15 hives” occasionally suffer setbacks such as the recent theft of 25 boxes of bees from one of their apiaries in Manchester. However, she gives credit to God for the wins along the way, such as the Best Packaging trophy at last year’s JMA Expo and the opportunities still to come. True Story

True Stories | 45


“My vision for Jamaican food is that it can be put alongside the French, the Italian—any high-end cuisine” SHAUNIEL WHITELEY | Oji Jaja


C

ulinary artist Oji Jaja grew up in the kitchen. As

children, he and his three sisters were responsible for preparing lunch on Saturdays. “We used to experiment with different things and get feedback from each other,” he said. Despite his love for food, he decided to start an engineering programme at the Excelsior Community College after high school, which he failed miserably because “it wasn’t anything that I was passionate about. My mother was kind of trying to push me in that direction.” But he was always in the kitchen, exploring cookbooks and experimenting with different ingredients, so behind his mother’s back, he enrolled at the Runaway Bay HEART Academy. She wasn’t keen on his decision, thinking there was no real future as a cook but Oji convinced her to support his choice by introducing her to several sous chefs. Today, he is one of the premier chefs in Jamaica, having worked at properties like the former Hilton Kingston Hotel and the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay. In fact, he had a long stint with Ritz Carlton, also working at properties in Naples and Key Biscayne, Florida for several years. He started his own business, Jaja

has grown every year since opening, especially the catering arm. The most challenging aspect of running the business has been people management, specifically breaking the “bad habits” staff members might have learned at home or in another professional setting and raising them up to a higher level of professionalism. Ashebre also produces a namesake condiments line, which currently consists of three varieties of basil pesto--spicy, mild and dairy free. It is available at John R. Wong and Loshusan supermarkets and Oji is looking at expanding into a few more stores. Oji’s vision for Ashebre also includes having a training facility to help trainees or professionals coming out of schools straight out of school refine their skills and be a lot more marketable on an international level. As a professional foodie, he has experienced cuisine of all

Culinary Services (later renamed Ashebre), in 2004, then kinds but he has a special love for the flavours of home. returned to Jamaica in 2006 ready to execute his vision. “It’s going to sound cliche, but the truth is that we have ‘Ashebre’ is a West African word meaning ‘the artist,’ and is also Oji’s middle name. The virtual restaurant specialises in modern Caribbean cuisine and provide services ranging from special events catering to restaurant consulting, food styling, group and one-onone culinary classes, hospitality and customer service

so many cultures here and it has contributed to our

cuisine being very diverse,” he said. “I see it as gourmet cuisine and I don’t think it needs to be fused with the French or anything like that. I do believe that with the right technique, we can definitely bring it up to that level.” True Story

training. Business has been going quite well, as Ashebre True Stories | 47


“We want to be the premium food innovations company in Jamaica.”

RICHARD MCLEISH | Springvale Enterprise


Springvale Enterprises may be a part of the agro-processing industry but co-founder and Operations Manager Richard McLeish made it clear that the company goes beyond mere processing to innovation. The business, which officially operates as Sankhard Company Limited, is all about “changing traditional recipes into new food products and providing a new avenue for agroprocessing and new product development.” Richard, who studied Chemical Engineering at Howard University, has more than 10 years’ experience in the food industry. Springvale Enterprises was his brainchild, until he married Sandra in 2010. As the Managing Director, she designed the company’s DNA based on her hunger to be transformative in society. “Her idea for Springvale is to have primarily female farmers, who’ve been sidelined for so long locally, be the main suppliers of agro-processing,” he explained. In 2011, the company first ventured into vinaigrettes and salad dressings, the latter called OMD (Oh My Dressing). There are Greek, Italian and Russian dressings, and America has ranch, so the couple figured Jamaica had enough cache

True Stories | 49


to have its own dressing. After all, Jamaica is the seventh most recognizable brand internationally. Each dressing pairs a fruit and a herb, such as guava rosemary, mango ginger, and june plum lemongrass. Vinaigrette flavours include spicy mango, sorrel and apple. The idea to go into business came about after a friend from overseas came to visit. They cooked for her at home and whipped up a sorrel dressing that prompted her to say, “you need to put this in a bottle.” The McLieshes are currently wading into the sauce arena with their latest innovation, pumpkin ketchup. “Pumpkin ketchup has been on the books in Jamaica since the 1970s, I’ve been told,” said Richard. According to his research, Jamaica spends more than a billion dollars annually importing tomato ketchup -“never mind the local brands you see listed on it.” He added, “We have a year-round supply of pumpkin and we have precedence in Thailand and other countries that use other fruits as a ketchup base.”Producing such unique items certainly sets Springvale apart in the industry and has earned them customers across Jamaica and the Caribbean. They are gearing up to export in large quantities to the USA and Canada. “We expect

a serious way,” said Richard. “By end of September, our product line will be available on Amazon. We’re really positioned to do well across the board.”The company’s major challenge has been money, which limits some of their plans. Despite winning or being nominated for several awards and honours, “we haven’t gotten the proper type of support from the moneying agencies in the country but we’re pushing on.” True Story

to be the first exported organic salad dressing product. That’s a big deal for us because you’re talking about us now approaching Whole Foods in

True Stories | 51


Sweet Treats & Snacks CHOCOLATES | CANDIES | PASTRIES | CHIPS

52 | True Stories


True Stories | 53


“People liked it and kept asking if they could buy it and so it turned into a business.” LISE-ANN HARRIS | Treat Confectionery


P

eanut brittle is something just about every Jamaican

knows and loves. But have you ever had a spicy cashew brittle? How about a sesame brittle, or a coffee almond brittle? If you didn’t even know those existed, Lise-Ann Harris of Treat Confectionery is here to give your taste buds...well, a treat. “I think the typical local peanut brittle is mostly held together by a little sugar. Ours is a caramel with nuts. It’s basically the same thing—nuts and sugar but it’s a different process and we use other nuts and flavours,” she said.

they could buy it and so it turned into a business,” she

Also different is the packaging. Treat Confectionery’s brittles are packaged in various ways. There are the individual brittles, which come in clear plastic packets, as well as jars, pouches and boxes, which hold several pieces of brittle. All bear the minimalist white label with touches of pink and brown.

said. Treat Confectionery has been in business a little over a year and Harris is still pleasantly surprised by the response to the products. The biggest success story so far has been a nomination for Best New Product at the 2016 Jamaica Observer Food Awards.

Lise-Ann didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. She had gone to college in the United States and came back to Jamaica about three years ago. On hiatus from her career in banking and finance to have more time with her children, she was also looking for a way to help supplement the family income. “We used to make brittle at home with my mom. It’s something that I make at Christmas time

and give to family and

friends and people

liked it and kept asking if

As the business grows, the main challenge that Lise-Ann faces is finding a consistent supply of raw products in Jamaica. “It’s usually hard to get the things that we need. We have to plan way ahead of time just to make sure that you have everything,” she said. The brittles initially debuted at various pop-up shops and specialty events in Kingston, such as MoDA Market and Market on the Lawn, which generated quite a bit of interest. Currently, the products are available at


Loshusan Supermarket, Craft Cottage, Jamaica Pegasus Hotel’s gift shop, Manor Park Pharmacy, SuperValu Supermarket and Things Jamaican™. The company also ventured outside of Kingston for the first time earlier this year at the inaugural Jamaica International Exhibition, a tradeshow held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St. James. Now that she’s got the taste for entrepreneurship, she is keen on growing the business: “I would like to be all-island and within the Caribbean in the next five years, maybe the US after that.” True Story


“I started out with two simple flavours.” DOMINIC MCDOWELL | DAM GOOD ENTERPRISES


Y

oung, self-motivated, very determined. These are

some of the words Dominic McDowell uses to describe himself. He could also add ‘bold,’ because when he walked away from a secure job in the financial services industry to try his hand at entrepreneurship in 2012, it wasn’t to hang out his own shingle using the experience he had gained but to bake and sell brownies. The Meadowbrook High and Wolmer’s Boys alum who also holds degrees from the University of Technology and a postgraduate diploma from the Mona School of Business, started DAM Good Brownies in 2011 while still working. “It started as a little shop and I would usually buy whole cakes and slice them up and resell. After a while, I got pretty tired and bored of the options that I had to offer my customers, so I was actually at home one day watching a commercial on TV, which sparked the idea for doing brownies,” he explains. “I started out with two simple flavours—cookies and cream and M&Ms.” Dominic was no baking expert but you wouldn’t have known that based on the first batch of brownies he whipped up. The response was so encouraging that it gave him the push to fine-tune his operations and

There are many dessert or sweet treat options available

eventually pursue the business full-time. He admits to

locally, so the novelty of the brownies certainly helps

a few ups and downs over the five-year journey but the

DAM Good Enterprises stand out. They also pay

business, now DAM Good Enterprises, is still standing

close attention to feedback from customers and take

strong and has grown through evolution. There are

suggestions as it relates to the flavours they create.

now 17 flavours available pre-packaged and they also offer catered brownies in the form of brownie bites, kebabs, shots, parfaits and truffles. He has also found it more feasible to scale down its pre-packaged retail distribution to focus on the catering aspect, based on customer feedback. “We have plans to reintroduce the retail distribution and we’re currently working on improving our packaging to facilitate that,” he said. In terms of origin, brownies aren’t traditionally Jamaican but Dominic ensures that his products are as local as

The business is still home-based but once he has finalized standardizing the new packaging process through the Scientific Research Council and the Bureau of Standards, Dominic is looking forward to moving into a dedicated production space. “In five years, I see us having much more extensive distribution islandwide. I also see us venturing into some export markets and I see DAM Good Brownies as a household name.” True Story

possible. “I have a wide base of flavours, so depending on what the highlighted ingredient is, we use primarily Jamaican products, which can range anywhere from coffee to bananas to coconuts, coconut or white rum, rum cream and so on,” he says. True Stories | 59


“We’re firm believers in producing things that are not only financially viable, but also beneficial to the earth.” AVERELL AND HELEN FRENCH | Cold Bush Organics


A

verell and Helen French grew up on opposite

sides of the world, Jamaica and Uganda, respectively. They met while living in the United Kingdom, initially connecting because of a mutual interest in agriculture and a shared passion for Jamaican chocolate. Even though he and Helen had made a life for themselves in London, Averell’s heart was always in Jamaica - especially Mount Pleasant, located in the cool Blue Mountains, where his family has farmed for more than one hundred years. The couple made frequent trips back to Jamaica over a nine-year period, to upgrade and work on their coffee and cocoa farms. Both grew up around cocoa and are confessed chocoholics. Helen even grew up making chocolate with her family. “I knew how to make chocolate but not the commonly known way using equipment in the western world. Coming from Uganda, we didn’t have those luxuries,” she said. The idea to start a business began germinating during the couple’s trips to Jamaica for holidays. Their 150-acre farm is dedicated to both cocoa and coffee but since

True Stories | 61


62 | True Stories


the well-known, locally-produced Highgate brand had been out of business for almost seven years by the time they relocated to Jamaica, the Frenches moved quickly to fill the gap in the chocolate industry. The

Jamaican™ stores at Devon House, JBDC Corporate and Norman Manley International Airport as well as several hotels in Montego Bay and Negril.

Mount Pleasant brand produces 11 varieties of dark

The main challenge has been the high cost of

chocolate bars such as sea salt, chilli, jerk, almond

importing the equipment needed to process the

and cinnamon, as well as white chocolate, cocoa nibs,

chocolate. However, they have their eyes set on

chocolate wine and cocoa powder. In addition, there

continuing to expand operations. “Our ultimate

are beauty products like cocoa butter and chocolate

aim would be to have an established factory on

face masks.

the farm, and have a place where we can carry

The French’s first taste of success came in 2014 when the samples they had given to Adam & Eve Day Spa ended up in the hands of the Jamaica Observer’s lifestyle maven Novia McDonald-Whyte. She then called them up and invited them to present their products to the Observer Food Awards judges and they ended up winning Best New Product.

out farm tours and show the entire process of chocolate making,” said Averell. They are also keen on formalising exports, as currently, supplies to overseas customers are based on special request only. “People will contact us from New York, Florida or the UK and they’ll ask for chocolates to be delivered for special occasions as we do tailor-made chocolates.” True Story

Mount Pleasant products are currently available at Loshusan Supermarket, the Pegasus Hotel, the Coconut Industry Board, Liguanea Drug & Garden Centre, General Foods in Ocho Rios, Things True Stories | 63


“We had to find something that we could add value to and begin to increase our income.” I

n 2004, Hurricane Ivan devastated several partsSt. James

of Jamaica with high winds and heavy rainfall, even without making direct landfall. One of the communities hardest hit was Jeffrey Town in St. Mary. “We had such a horrible time here after the hurricane with the cleanup and recovery efforts, being almost the last community in Jamaica to get back electricity and no food to eat. It was really extreme,” recalled Ivy Gordon, secretary of the Jeffrey Town Farmers Association. They say experience teaches wisdom, so out of that ordeal, the residents worked together to ensure that whenever the next hurricane comes, they would at

IVY GORDON | Jeffery Town Farmers association.


least be able to feed themselves. Farming is still the backbone of the community but in recent years, the Farmers Association has moved into agro-processing in order to create additional income streams and make use of the harvesting surplus. They tried several products, until Ivy had an ‘aha!’ moment in 2015 after her husband brought home about 30 pounds of sweet potato. She sliced and dried them, milled them into powder but still had no idea what to do with it. “When we went to bed that night, I said ‘I wonder if it can make pudding?’” she said. The next morning, she used the milled sweet potato powder to make a pudding by grating the sweet potatoes herself and it came out just as good as anything Mama would make. The retired Home Economics and Food and Nutrition teacher knew that Jamaicans both at home and abroad would love a sweet potato pudding mix, since hardly anyone has the time or interest to grate potatoes these days. Gordon is confident in the product but she is all about taking carefully calculated risks. “We have to do things in stages. We don’t have the resources to carry everything to the Bureau of Standards at the same time, so we’re taking this and we’re hoping the proceeds will allow us to bring another product,” she explained. The Jet Town Products Sweet Potato Mix is currently available

‘‘I wonder if it can make pudding?’’

True Stories | 65


in Things Jamaican™ outlets at Devon House, JBDC Corporate and Norman Manley International Airport, as well as AgriMart on Old Hope Road, and the Dolphin Cove gift shop in Ocho Rios. Gordon, who was born and raised in the UK, moved to Jamaica with her husband, a Jeffrey Town native, in 1994. She has dedicated herself to the community since then and the Farmers Association since 2004. “We want to do it and do it well and when I retire again, I want to know that these products are making and selling,” she declared. “When I go to my grave, I want to know that the women in Jeffrey Town particularly have an industry, even if it’s only five or ten of them; that is keeping them independent.” True Story

66 | True Stories


True Stories | 67


“The hallmark of Nic’s and the reputation that my aunt had is quality, good-tasting products” DWAYNE DILLION | Nic’s Pastries


B

y day, Dwayne Dillion works as an Organizational

Development Consultant at the Ministry of Finance & the Public Service. When he clocks out, he switches to entrepreneur mode and turns his focus on Nic’s Pastries, the business started by his aunt Nicola Morant in the early 2000s, which he took over when she migrated. Nicola had gone to catering school, but soon decided she didn’t want to work for anybody else, so she started to do some baking at home. She started out supplying one pharmacy and one shop with gizzadas, coconut drops and plantain tarts. Her client list grew by word of mouth. The little business soon outgrew her kitchen and eventually her house, until she had to set up a separate facility at the back of the property and hire employees. Dwayne, who professes to have a love and passion for business, grew up in St. Elizabeth and then migrated to Kingston. He used to help his aunt run the business and

“we’re looking at the coconut line of products as our competitive edge”

True Stories | 69


now welcomes the opportunity to make it his

In addition to the frontline products and various cakes

own and take it to the next level. He has some

such as wine slices, marble slices, rum cakes, Dwayne is

entrepreneurial experience to call on, having tried

also pursuing a new line of coconut products. “In terms

various ventures. He also has knowledge of what a

of cakes, there are many other similar brands out there,

fledgling business needs from the outside, having

so we’re looking at the coconut line of products as our

worked as a Small Business Loans Officer at First

competitive edge, one that has true benefits and the

Union Financial Group Ltd., before moving to the

consumer will be demanding,” he explained.

Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) where he was a Business Development Officer.

His efforts have paid off, as Nic’s Pastries has increased its customer base by 25 per cent and added 13

He has actually been the de facto head of the

additional suppliers, which has led to increased sales

operation for three years now, but Nicola used to

- all before the end of his first financial year at the

run the show from Fort Lauderdale, flying back and

helm. The customer base is predominantly in Kingston

forth. She soon started to bake and sell pastries

and Dwayne is working to expand into St. Catherine,

there as well and just as her first business took

particularly Portmore or Falmouth, Trelawny.

off, so did this new venture. Running two bustling businesses in two countries was just no longer feasible.

As he seeks to grow the business, Dwayne is also working to increase the potential shelf life of a number of Nic’s Pastries products. He has a big vision for the company, which includes getting into key diaspora areas, having seen the runaway success of his aunt’s new venture in Fort Lauderdale. True Story

True Stories | 71


True Stories | 73


“It’s something persons really like,

especially adults.”

AUDREY REID | Plantain Curls Enterprise Ltd


“No preservatives. It’s just natural” This is low salt and it has no preservatives. It’s just natural, made with vegetable oil,” said Audrey. This is not to say that children don’t like the product, because Audrey noted that they do supply a number of schools in the parish and it “sells well.” R&R is currently not in production, as their packaging has been stuck at the printery for the past six weeks, which has left customers asking for their snack fix. There are other challenges as well, such as sourcing the amount of green plantains they need, as well as financial strain. Audrey said they would love to increase production, but they would need “better storage and more equipment—a bigger fryer or additional fryers and more slicers, so we could employ more persons. If we have the finances, then we would be able to expand more,” said Audrey. The Reids are both retired teachers. Smeadly was

“When the strips are fried, they curl up a little”

A

dults love snacks, too. That’s what Audrey and

Smeadly Reid have found out since they started producing R&R Plantain Curls about four years ago. You may be more used to the term ‘chips’ when it comes to green plantains but Audrey explained, “We say curls because the plantains are cut long, so when the strips

the Principal of Grove Town Primary School, and Audrey was a teacher and Guidance Counsellor there. Starting a business wasn’t really something the Reids had wanted to pursue, but after retirement, they found they needed something to occupy their time. “A friend was doing a similar thing and he encouraged us to go into it as well,” she said. They also sought business training with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC). R&R Plantain Curls can mainly be found in pharmacies and mini-marts in Mandeville but they

are fried, they curl up a little.”

are also available at the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™

The company, R&R Plantain Curls Enterprise, was

Rios, St. Ann. Once they can overcome the financial

started in their kitchen at home in Manchester. Although they have built an extension where they set up their equipment, it is still a very small operation. “We supply to a few places because it’s really small,

outlets, as well as two tourist attractions in Ocho hurdles, the Reids would like to expand operations and be able to reach more potential customers all across Jamaica. True Story

but it does very well. It’s something persons really like, especially adults. Children prefer salty or sweet things. True Stories | 75


“I was not interested in food in the early days, but I certainly had a tremendous love for chocolate.� MICHELLE SMITH | Chocolate Dreams


running. It has grown over the years, from a sole tradership in Michelle’s apartment to a limited liability company in 2010, with a factory on Roosevelt Avenue and two retail outlets at Devon House in 2009 and inside the Loshusan Shopping Centre in Barbican. The company also services several hotels, including Royalton, Half Moon and Secrets. There have been some setbacks along the way too,

M

ichelle Smith always loved chocolate, so when

including challenges with accessing financing for growth. But the biggest one of all was the fire at Devon House that razed her store in 2010. “You know, when

she decided to start her own business in 2004, it wasn’t

I got the call, I felt weak to the knees and I remember

much of a challenge to figure out what area to get into.

looking inside and seeing black soot everywhere,” she

The native Kingstonian had spent most of her working

recalled. “Just the thought of dumping all the chocolate

life in administration, including 10 years at the United

as well as the packaging made my heart heavy and I

States Embassy but there came a point where she

was sad for quite some time wondering how I would

wanted more. “I made that decision due to a need for

ever recover.”

financial independence and a desire to tap into the chocolate industry. I am passionate about chocolate and cocoa,” she said.

Michelle credits her faith that God works miracles and the kindness shown by family, friends, and her bank manager for helping her get back on her feet. “My

She already had a bit of experience making chocolates

partner, director and biggest cheerleader, Michael

for Valentine’s Day, so after doing extensive research,

Matalon and his team of men who have worked with

including going overseas to explore some businesses

him since his days of construction, got together and

in the United States, she got down to business with

put the store back together again in record time for

Chocolate Dreams. “I learned the craft entirely from the

re-opening on December 9,” she said. Her team worked

computer and trial and error in the kitchen,” she said.

round the clock at the factory and it all paid off, as they

One of those ‘errors’ came during her first attempt to

had record sales that year.

make a white rum truffle. “I added too much rum and the batch remained like pudding for days! Flop!”

Chocolate Dreams has risen from the ashes to grow from strength to strength each passing year. Going

She has fine-tuned her skills over the years with a series

forward, Michelle envisions a 4-5,000 square foot

of training opportunities through the Centre for the

factory and retail space, which will also offer tours. She

Development of Enterprise, which took her to Trinidad,

also plans to add more hotels and restaurants in the

Grenada and Belgium, the chocolate capital of the

region to her list of clients as well as list on the Jamaica

world. Chocolate Dreams had its first taste of success

Stock Exchange. True Story

with a Jamaica Observer Food Awards nomination in 2003, even before the business was officially up and True Stories | 77


“Every year my business gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and it was growing faster than my pocket could keep up.” PATRIA-KAYE AARONS | Sweetie Confectionery


S

tarting Sweetie Confectionery represented

a full circle moment in Patria-Kaye Aarons’ life. The marketing and media maven was once the unofficial sugar pusher at her alma mater. “Everybody at high school—big big Campion College—used to know that if they wanted sweetie to buy, they could come to me, because I would have sweetie in my knapsack for sale,” she recalled. Although she has spent the better part of her life working for companies like Digicel, GraceKennedy and CVM TV, Patria-Kaye’s entrepreneurial spirit never died. In fact, selling snacks helped her raise funds to pursue her masters at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2006 and she even started her own public relations firm in 2009.

“Patria-Kaye has big goals for Sweetie’s future but perhaps the biggest one is going public.” The Sweetie story began in 2013 with a question from

There were some financial challenges in the

her god-daughter: “Aunty, what is a blue raspberry?”

beginning, as Patria-Kaye couldn’t secure a business

Since there is no such fruit, she became determined

loan after she had sunk all of her personal savings—

to provide her god-daughter and other candy lovers

pension and all—into the research and development

like herself with sweets made from local fruits—things

phase. There were also some supply and demand

that actually exist in nature that they can identify. A

glitches, as the business was growing so fast that the

cold call to Paul Lue-Yen of Miel Sweets, Jamaica’s last

production facility she was using at the time could

remaining commercial confectionery manufacturer

not keep up with the orders. But those issues are

at the time, gave her some advice. Next stop was the

now firmly in the past as she secured investment via

SRC, where they worked on formulating flavours and

FirstAngelsJA, Jamaica’s first angel investor network,

they settled on jackfruit, guava, mango, June plum

earlier this year.

and pomegranate. With the exception of the fruit flavoured oils, everything else that is used to make Sweetie candies is locally sourced. The only reason for this import is that there’s currently no local entity commercially extracting oils.

With the angel investment, Patria-Kaye has been able to get Sweetie its own factory space with brand new machinery, which has not only improved efficiency but given her options for adding new items to the lineup, such as lollipops and gummies. The range


of products, which include the five original flavours, plus Paradise Plum and peanut brittle can be found at just about any supermarket island wide. “I grew from just selling out of my trunk to 20 locations, to landing a local distributor that immediately catapulted me to 100 locations, to landing a distribution deal in the US Virgin Islands, then in the UK, then in the US,” she recalled. Patria-Kaye has big goals for Sweetie’s future but perhaps the biggest one is going public. “By 2021, Jamaicans should be able to buy into Sweetie and I’m readying the company from now,” she said. True Story

80 | True Stories


“I asked if I could come see him make the busta, and he said yes” YVONNE CHIN | EC’s Koconutz Limited


Y

Business is fairly steady but they are occasionally hit vonne Chin never had any interest in being an

with a shortage of raw material as weather conditions

entrepreneur early in life. She had her heart set on

sometimes adversely affect coconut farms. The

a Chemistry degree from the University of the West

drought conditions of 2014 and 2015 “spiked the price

Indies, Mona. But a different kind of ‘chemistry’ ended

of coconuts a whole lot and so our production wasn’t

that chapter in her life as she got married and didn’t

going anywhere.” To combat that problem, the family

finish her studies. Instead, she returned to her native St.

has planted its own stand of coconut trees.

Thomas to live with her husband on his farm and they eventually opened a supermarket.

One of Yvonne’s main goals is to continue to increase production. She also has her eye on another line of

Tragedy struck in 2000 as the business was burned to

business, this one utilising a different plant altogether

the ground. Not one item was salvaged. She found she

- cannabis. She is currently awaiting approval from

had no desire to reopen the supermarket and stayed

the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) to get started.

home for a while. One day, she approached a former

“We will have to register a different company but we’re

supplier, Alanzo ‘Busta Man’ Graham and asked him to

definitely interested in going in this direction,” she said.

teach her how to make the sweets. “I went the morning,

True Story

early. I helped him prepare the ingredients and saw exactly how he did it. Sometimes when I didn’t have anything to do, I would do it. I did it and cut it and gave him some and he said, ‘You got it quick,’” she shared. She made her own small batches and gave the sweets away, until someone advised her to sell them instead. She approached Busta Man again. “He wasn’t really working. He was just making this small amount and selling,” she said. “I asked him, ‘Would you like to come work with me? You make the stuff and I sell it.’ So he did, and we started.” That business, started in 2001, evolved into EC’s Kokonutz, which is today the most stable producer of busta in Jamaica. Yvonne and her eight-member staff also make ‘raw’ coconut oil, meaning there is no heat applied during the extraction process. Tamarind balls are another specialty. “We kind of solar dry the balls before we sell them and we find that there’s a huge market for that. A lot of it is sold in the airports,” she said. EC’s Kokonutz products can be found at any number of supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations across the country. The company also exports to the USA and the UK, where one of its clients is Wanis Limited, one of the largest wholesalers of Afro-Caribbean food in the country.

True Stories | 83


Beverages WINE | TEAS | COFFEE | RUM

84 | True Stories


True Stories | 85


“He had the seed in one hand and the flesh in the other.” ORAL & ALLISON TURNER | Turner’s Innovations Limited


O

ne day in 2008, Oral Turner was busy tending to

his farm supplies store in Comma Pen, St. Elizabeth, when a customer walked in distressed that he would have to abandon his whole field of sorrel because it would cost more to harvest than he would make in profit. There’s a saying that challenges are often opportunities in disguise, so Oral began to think of ways he could help. A welder by trade, he has a knack for reverse-engineering, so he began taking sorrel home and tinkering with various appliances and other household items, seeing what he could put together to mechanise the process of separating the sorrel flesh from the seeds. His wife Allison wasn’t too keen on this idea but three months later, he had done it. “He had the seed in one hand and the flesh in the other. He ran a light into the garden, was working through the night, he just didn’t give up,” she said. The Turners have practically become stars in the local agro-processing industry over the past three years, racking up accolades from The Gleaner, National Commercial Bank and more. But it has taken almost a decade to produce and perfect the modern, patented Sorrel Harvesting Machine. The biggest challenge was, of course, financing. Despite the novelty of having invented something new, the banks and financial institutions were absolutely not interested. “We were deflated but we were determined to make it happen, to prove them wrong,” said Allison. “It was a horrible experience. They just didn’t see the vision.”

True Stories | 87


“We were deflated but we were determined to make it happen, to prove them wrong,”

Allison eventually approached the late Roger Clarke and got connected with the Development Bank of Jamaica. That got them the start they needed. The couple recently secured angel investment through FirstAngelsJA, Jamaica’s first angel investor network. This has helped them to perfect and commercialise the Sorrel Harvesting Machine. They have also moved into food processing with the Turner’s Choice brand,

88 | True Stories


producing dried sorrel, candied sorrel and candied

The Turners regularly field enquiries from farmers

sorrel with almonds. Up next is a specialty bottled

in other countries who want access to the Sorrel

sorrel sauce.

Harvesting Machine. They are excited about the

The peppery, sweet and tangy sauce was a hit at the 2017 Jamaica Observer Food Awards, where they won the Best Food Product award for their Choice dried and candied sorrel products. Allison was blown away. “It’s going to give us the boost that we are really looking for

possibilities of going global but they are starting locally, licensing the machine with a major local manufacturer. “The world is our oyster,” said Allison, “and we have many options to take the model overseas if we choose.” True Story

to promote our product, because we know it’s the best that’s out there right now,” she said. True Stories | 89


“Our coffee is consistent in its taste profile, no matter where around the world you buy Rocksteady Coffee.” RICARDO FORBES | Rocksteady Mountain Ltd 90 | True Stories


“Seeing Rocksteady Coffee on the store shelf for the first time was a big thing”

​T

he coffee business runs deep in Ricardo Forbes’

blood, as his grandmother used to farm, process and sell her own coffee. It skipped a generation, as his mother pursued a different career path but 50 years later, he is now making moves in the coffee industry. “One could say it’s my calling,” he said. Ricardo, born and raised in Kingston, migrated to Canada in 2002. He started his entrepreneurial journey in 2005, forming Forbes Holdings Management Inc., which is primarily involved in real estate management and investments in Ontario and Quebec. Feeling the time was right to diversify his investments, he decided to branch out into the coffee business in 2012 and founded Rocksteady Mountain Resort Limited. In order to secure supply, Ricardo and his wife purchased a derelict 17.5 acre coffee farm in the Blue Mountains and brought it back to life with the desire to provide a product warm in spirit and wholeheartedly Jamaican. “Rocksteady Mountain Coffee is a small batch, single origin product, which means that we only manufacture coffee from our farm. We work hard to provide an exceptional tasting coffee - this is our first goal. We have achieved this b ​ y following longstanding Blue Mountain Coffee farm husbandry, making sure that our coffee is consistent in its taste profile, no matter where around the world you buy Rocksteady Coffee,” he explained. Rocksteady Blue Mountain Coffee is sold as 16 ounce, 12 ounce, and 8 ounce roasted whole beans, ground coffee and green beans. It is certified by the Coffee Industry Board as 100 per cent Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and is distributed in more than 30 countries. Locally, it can be found in select Progressive Grocers supermarkets islandwide, F&B Downtown, The Gap

Cafe and at the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ Devon House and Norman Manley International Airport locations. “JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ was one of the first companies to retail our coffee,” said Ricardo. “They have helped us to quickly gain visibility in the marketplace. Of course, we had to follow up by providing an exceptional product.” One of his proudest moments was seeing the printed packaging for the first time, proudly displaying the brand name. “That, to me, was bringing my ideas to life. Also, seeing Rocksteady Coffee on the store shelf for the first time was a big thing,” he said. ​ He has been met with some challenges over the years, such as access to the necessary financing, “navigating the various tax regimes and the slow pace at which various government and private entities move to get things done,” but Ricardo keeps moving forward. “My goal is to increase our farmstead to 30 acres, producing a 3/4 box of ripe cherry coffee per tree,” he said. True Story


“It used to get me invited to lots of parties and functions.” JOHN BULLOCK | J. Bullock & Sons (Spiritz Rum Punch)


T

here is an art to making rum punch according to

post-retirement entrepreneur John Bullock, and he learned it the proper way “many, many moons ago” while growing up in rainy Portland and St. Mary. Over the years, his rum punch-making skills earned him invites to lots of parties and functions, “because subtly I was expected to provide ‘the stuff’ free of cost, which was a pleasure then,” he said with a laugh. Eventually, in 2010, the former banker, public servant, insurance salesman and restaunteur decided to try his hand at manufacturing and his signature drink became Spiritz Rum Punch. “I approached the Scientific Research Council to help me to standardize my formula in the third quarter of 2010 and by December, I was ready to roll out with production, having satisfied all the Bureau of Standards and other governmental requirements,” he said. Although there were plans to make several products, Bullock has decided to take things slow and stick with just the one flavour of rum punch. Spiritz Rum Punch boasts on the label that it is ‘Jamaica’s Best Rum Punch’ and John is adamant this is no idle boast. Spiritz consists of a blend of premium Jamaican white rums

John Bullock & Sons, as the name suggests, is a family

and natural fruit extracts. The aroma of the rum is

business and the eponymous “sons” and several

unmistakable but the fruity taste offers a nice balance.

other family members are involved in the operation in

Another plus is that the product doesn’t need to be

different capacities. John, the Founder and Managing

refrigerated. Due to the high alcohol content, it has a

Director, decided to get back into business post-

shelf-life of around 18 months, even after opening.

retirement simply because “laziness and not working the brain is a dangerous combination. I’ve always been working and I felt it was necessary for me to continue to work. I also figured I could contribute to the growth of my economy.” Spiritz Rum Punch is available in most major supermarkets islandwide, as well as several in-bond stores, and at the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ outlets at Devon House, JBDC Corporate and Norman Manley International Airport.


In addition to potentially expanding the number of Spiritz Rum Punch flavours, Bullock is looking to penetrate the global market, “especially the hard currency areas.” First, he wants to see the Spiritz brand become a household name in Jamaica. “It’s very essential for Jamaicans especially not only to buy Jamaican products but to encourage their relatives and friends abroad to purchase or have items purchased for them,” he said. “Our imports far exceed our exports, which means that we are not self-sufficient and it is going to have a serious effect on our economy if we don’t really support our products domestically and help to promote them globally.” True Story


“It’s very essential for Jamaicans especially, not only to buy Jamaican products, but to encourage their relatives and friends abroad to purchase or have items purchased for them,”

True Stories | 95


“I probably wouldn’t have gone into honey if I hadn’t lost the job.” GRACE FOSTER-REID | ENVIRONMED LTD


A

bout five years before the local bauxite

industry imploded, Grace Foster-Reid had a passionate debate with a friend about working for someone else versus working for self. “At that point in time, I was actually in a very good job, getting paid in US dollars and everything and I debated on the side of a secure job,” said the former Engineer. Her stance began to turn after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, which turned out to be a good thing as she had to start her own business after losing her job when the bauxite plants closed. At that time, she had a young family and wasn’t keen on travelling or moving from Manchester to Kingston to work. A visit to her father’s farm provided just the idea she needed to find a new revenue earner when she saw some bee boxes. The seed that would become EnvironMed Limited took root. Beekeeping was initially challenging, as she had no background in agriculture and found that many of the older farmers in the area were not keen on helping the incoming ones like her.


“Beekeeping isn’t something you can read in a book and go do it. It’s a practical thing. Somebody has to show you,” she said. “It’s actually a very geography-specific thing too. You need a local person to show you. I didn’t get that until very late.” She eventually found a mentor, Roy Murray, head of the Jamaica Federation for Commercial Apiculturists Limited, who helped her find her feet. Through EcoFarms, a subsidiary of EnvironMed, Grace and her husband Clifton produce honey-based products for the local and export market. Their first product in 2011 was HoneyStix - honey in plastic drinking straws, available in 10 flavours. That has since been joined by flavoured honey in a variety of packaging, as well as Buzz Honey Wine, which is actually a result of “innovation through accident,” she said, as “we had some honey that somehow water got into it and it fermented. Even though it wasn’t a controlled fermentation, it tasted really good.”The products are currently available at several locations, including Monarch Pharmacy, Fontana Pharmacy, Things Jamaican™, Carby’s, Craft Cottage and Sandals, Couples and Half Moon hotels. The Reids are also in discussion with an Amazon salesperson to get their products online. As the business continues to grow, Grace is looking forward to attending the Hanover Trade Fair in Germany, one of the biggest in the world. This marks the company’s latest major achievement, as it was a National Baking Company Bold One in 2013, won an NCB Nation Builder Award in 2014. Grace was also selected as a 2013 VV GROW Fellow in the Vital Voices and Bank of America’s Global Ambassadors Programme. There are challenges, of course, such as accessing loans and the high cost of packaging but Grace’s vision for EnvironMed still encompasses helping others. She mentors aspiring bee farmers and works closely with Deaf Village in Mandeville to train some of the residents as beekeepers. “We’re setting up a little factory down there so that we can actually employ them in beekeeping and factory operations,” she said. True Story

98 | True Stories


“How could anybody drink something like this?” HOWARD COXE | Journey’s End Wine


“The expressions on people’s faces was like ‘Oh my God, ackee wine?”

W

hen it comes to wines, most people only think

of two types - red and white, made from grapes. More dedicated wine lovers will be able to name other fruits widely used in winemaking but only one will dare to add ackee on that list. Yes, you read that right. There is such a thing as ackee wine and the bold one behind it is Howard Coxe of Journey’s End Wines. Coxe lived in the United States for 30 years, in several wine-producing regions and is a long-time hobbyist himself. He and his wife relocated to Jamaica 10 years ago. “We noticed that there wasn’t much of an industry in Jamaica with wine-making, especially with our local fruits and produce that we have here. That being the case, I figured there was going to be a niche market for that, so I started to experiment with making various wines, starting with the ackee of course,” he said. But, why ackee? “I knew that ackee is a fruit and it was just something that came to me as I was going through the various fruits that were popular in Jamaica, wondering which one I would start with,” he explained. “I thought that if I was going to go into the market, I would use that one as my first fruit and it really got a lot of attention. It helped me to open doors.” The first batch debuted five years ago at the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in May Pen, Clarendon. People flocked to it out of sheer curiosity. “The expressions on people’s faces was like ‘Oh my God, ackee wine? How could anybody drink something like this?’” Coxed recalled with a chuckle. “But then they tasted it,” he added.

‘‘I figured there was going to be a niche market for that, so I started to experiment’’ True Stories | 101


Today, the ackee wine is their best seller. Noni, sorrel and sugarcane have been added to Journey’s End’s list of wines, with passion fruit flavour to come soon. One of Coxe’s main challenges is the stiff competition from foreign wines. It’s challenging to stand out on the shelf, but the novelty of the products, particularly the ackee and noni flavours, help to drive sales of the wines, which can be found in MegaMart, Things Jamaican™ at Devon House, JBDC Corporate and Norman Manley International Airport as well as a few other supermarkets and stores. Coxe acknowledged that he and his wife, both retirees, are “getting up there” in age, so they might consider bringing in a partner or even selling the business down the line. For now, they continue to push their vision to succeed against the foreign wines, even as they also plan to move into export. True Story

“Today, the ackee wine is their best seller”.


True Stories | 103


“Anywhere me go and give people my chocolate, dem really love it.” PAUL ATKINSON | Rock Farms


ROCK FARMS

bigger space by getting some loans from National

P

currently employs two people, has remained small aul Atkinson grew up in Catadupa, St. James,

surrounded by cocoa trees, both on his family’s property and elsewhere in the community. There weren’t many people using them and the trees far outnumbered residents, so the vast majority of the cocoa pods would ripen, fall off the trees and rot on the ground, a buffet for rats. As he got older, he learned to make chocolate balls from an older man in the community using a mortar and pestle. “I said, ‘Make I try some a this and see how it would go on the market, if it could be used as a product to make a living out of it.’ That’s how it started, instead of making them waste,” he explained. Paul went on to start Rock Farm in 1992. He produces chocolate for making tea but it can also be made as a cold beverage. “We started just doing like 10 packs of the chocolate tea and getting it around to people to sample and we saw interest in it, so we just decided to carry it to a bigger scale,” he said. Rock Farm Chocolate Tea can be found mainly in HiLo

People’s Co-Operative Bank,” he said. Rock Farm, which primarily due to challenges obtaining funds. Atkinson relies on loans and grants here and there to help keep production going. “I wouldn’t say I have any major success stories, because we’re still trying to get to a level where everybody can be comfortable,” he said. “We want machinery that can help to strip the cocoa. I got in touch with a company in China that said they had this machine that can strip the cocoa. I even went to the trouble of getting one of them down in Jamaica. It was very hard to clear but I did it anyway and when I got it, it wasn’t the thing that I expected,” he lamented. He found someone locally who can modify it, but funding is a challenge. A grinder is also needed for the factory and Atkinson wants to set up a bigger area for fermenting the cocoa beans. Once he gets these things in place, the next step is to add other products to the Rock Farm roster, including a sweet made from chocolate, similar to the once popular Bustamante backbone. Atkinson’s long-term vision is not only to help himself but to better his community. True Story

supermarkets across Kingston, Montego Bay and the JBDC’s Things Jamaican™ outlets, under their own brand. Paul, who also plants bananas, plantains and other crops, has a small factory on his property where the chocolate is produced. “We started real small in a little room and we gradually developed it to a much

True Stories | 105


“There were three to four months of “no” every day, from Monday to Friday, until we got a yes.” JOEL HARRIS | Shavuot International Holding


“He’s just a person who has “had some failures in the past,” learned from those mistakes and has finally struck gold.”

immediately, producing 12 crops, including sorrel, scotch bonnet pepper, cucumber and sweet pepper. In 2014, Joel soon saw the opportunity to move into agro-processing, which would also make the business more sustainable and Shavuot International Holdings Company Limited was born. What followed was about nine months of market research, product research and development, implementing proper protocols and lining up distributors. “That took hundreds of calls every day, every month. Three to four months of “no” every

S

havuot International Holdings Company Limited is

Joel Harris’ “eighth or ninth” business venture but don’t call the 28-year-old serial entrepreneur a veteran. He’s just a person who has “had some failures in the past,”

day, from Monday to Friday, until we got a yes,” he said. “That allowed us to form our first four products— Jamaican black castor oil, moringa tea, soursop tea and soursop moringa tea.” Jamaican black castor oil was the flagship product and

learned from those mistakes and has finally struck gold.

the tea line has increased from three to seven, with the

In 2013, on the heels of another business venture that

The product line has also extended to include moringa

didn’t work out as expected, Joel decided to go join his

powder, soursop powder, and moringa seeds. Scotch

father, Richard, to start Shavuot Farms. “My dad always

bonnet pepper flakes and powder also joined the

wanted to go into farming. This is the time when the

lineup, with moringa oil, onion powder and escallion

addition of peppermint, cerasee, ginger and cinnamon.

agro-parks were coming on board and the government was pushing more for agriculture and agro-processing,” he said. Shavuot, a Hebrew word which is loosely translated to mean ‘harvesting goodness,’ is a 165acre farm covering parts of Ebony Park in St. Catherine

“Our quality is extremely high.”

and Amity Hall in Clarendon. The venture took off True Stories | 107


“Some people nuh like the colourcolour thing.” powder coming next down the pipeline. The local tea market is quite competitive, as is the condiments market but Joel’s focus on delivering premium products with premium packaging at affordable prices has helped Shavuot to carve out a niche of its own. “Our quality is extremely high. If you take apart one of the tea bags, the colour of the teas remain. The smell is strong as the boxes are wrapped twice and the tea bags are placed into a sealed pack to retain the potency of the flavour and the scent. Our packaging is very distinct. It has a premium feel to it and the design cannot be compared to other products in Jamaica,” he explained. There have been a number of growing pains along the way, such as finding warehousing space closer to the shipping port in Kingston as the facility in May Pen was not viable. Through a friend, Joel got the opportunity to partner with New Horizons Christian Outreach Ministries in Wynter’s Pen, Spanish Town, where the company’s warehouse is currently located. This partnership has transformed the company into a social business, helping to turn around the lives of several residents of the community who work at the factory and warehouse. Joel is hoping to expand the model to other communities in the future.

“It has a premium feel to it and the design cannot be compared”


Today, Shavuot products can be found on the shelves at MegaMart, Hi-Lo, Things Jamaican™ outlets and Shopper’s Fair locations islandwide. The company exports to seven countries including the UK, the USA, Australia and Germany. It has also racked up a number of accolades, including the National Bakery’s Bold Ones Award for manufacturing and the National Commercial Bank’s Nation Builder Award in the Young Entrepreneur category. True Story


“When I decided to set up Perishables in 1980, that was the year when everybody was running away from Jamaica.” NORMAN WRIGHT | Perishables Jamaica


T

its own brands of herbal teas, PJL also packages he year 1980 was a rough one for Jamaica, marked

products for other brands, including Jamaica Country

a bloody general election and an exodus of average

Style (JCS), Caribbean Exotic Gourmet and Caribbean

citizens and key leaders of commerce seeking more

Dreams. It also sells ground herbs and spices to

peaceful pastures overseas. It doesn’t sound like the

other food processors he company gets some of its

ideal time to start a new business but that is exactly

raw material from the South Manchester Herbs and

what Norman Wright did, founding the agro processing

Spices Multipurpose Co-operative Society Limited. “We

and research and development company Perishables

lease one acre of land to establish their office and

Jamaica Limited that October. “As a young graduate of

dryer buildings on our farm in South Manchester. We

the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST, now

also have members of our staff in the co-operative,

UTech), with a mandate to adapt or create products

along with people from South Manchester and other

out of Jamaican material, or do something other than

communities,” explained Norman.

just follow the traditional, I sought to create a Jamaican herbal tea,” he said. He had the know-how, having worked with Tetley Tea Company Jamaica Limited and seen them weather the black tea shortage in the 1970s. “We formed Perishables with J$300 and US$175, and we planted that seed and that seed has grown from a one product company making Tops Pep o Mint tea into a brand that has 15 flavours, and we have another brand called Sipacupa Ital Jamaican, which has about seven flavours at the moment.” PJL’s flagship product is Tops Pep ‘o’ Mint tea bags. The peppermint used--Satureja Viminea—is unique to the Caribbean and is also known as ‘Jamaican mint.’ However, when Tops debuted, he was told that Jamaicans wouldn’t buy peppermint tea bags as the beverage was seen only as a cure for

Hermitage District in South Manchester will also be the site of PJL’s latest venture, as “we have a 10,000 square foot factory that we’re modernizing into a nutraceutical facility.” That is still a little way down the road, as is the plan to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The company has weathered many storms, from the natural kinds that affect the availability and price of raw material, to economic upheavals but still “we are net earners of foreign exchange. We generate our own energy for operations during the day from our solar panels. We seek to make a positive contribution at all times to nation building,” further justifying Norman’s decision to take a chance on Jamaica almost 37 years ago. True Story

ailments like upset stomach. History has proven them wrong and it is now one of the company’s bestsellers. In addition to making

True Stories | 111


“…your food is your medicine and your medicine is your food.” RICHARD KILDARE | EG Wellness


“The products we offer were either grown or naturally found in abundance”

T

that its Premier Power Porridge mix is pretty unique yellow yam and sweet potato. The combination offers a slow energy release as well as fibre for digestion. The flavour is enhanced with coconut milk, with vitamins and minerals added. “It gives you that extra energy and push. For diabetics, the slow release process prevents

he name Dr. Henry Lowe is synonymous with

that spike in your blood sugar level,” said Richard.

scientific research and innovation. He is well known for

EGWB doesn’t have an advertising budget but word

his ground-breaking cancer research and advocacy for

of mouth from satisfied consumers has been its most

medical marijuana, but he is also a businessman and

effective marketing tool, both for the food lines and

wellness guru. Among his many undertakings is EG

the supplements. The products can be found at most

Wellness Brands Limited (EGWB), which is dedicated

supermarkets islandwide, as well as wholesales and

to unearthing the therapeutic and/or nutritional

pharmacies. The company exports to the USA, Canada

properties of local plants and commercialising them for

and England, but people also order from elsewhere in

consumption both locally and overseas. The company

Europe and Latin America. Its success is a testament to

was incorporated in October 2014 and features

the value of eating what we grow and growing what we

cosmeceuticals, supplements, teas and a porridge mix.

eat, as well as the strength of Brand Jamaica overseas.

The teas and porridge mix are called ‘functional foods,’ which means it uses only organic ingredients to provide therapeutic or nutritional value to the body. “Functional foods fall in the category where your food is your medicine and your medicine is your food,” said Richard

“The products we offer were either grown or naturally found in abundance in Jamaica,” said Richard. “The science behind it, the scientists - Dr. Lowe and the 18 other scientists are all Jamaicans. The packaging, everything is done on local Jamaican soil.” True Story

Kildare, General Manager with responsibility for EGWB. ‘Bush’ tea in Jamaica is certainly medicinal, as many Jamaicans—especially the older set, view it as a cure for just about any ailment known to man. EGWB elevates this principle with scientific research. “The distinction between our teas and others is that the average person who sells a tea in Jamaica creates it because of the taste profile. We make it the other way. We try to identify right down to the molecular level of the substances in that tea. Upon doing that, we create it and apportion each tea bag for that serving,” explained Richard. This is important because, for instance, guinea hen weed in excess can become toxic to the body. There are currently eight tea flavours, including guinea hen weed, guinea hen weed and ball moss, moringa and cinnamon, cerasee and ginger and bissy. Vitamins and minerals are also added to the teas to increase nutritional value.

Innovation is the hallmark of EGWB, so it’s no surprise True Stories | 113


A Jamaica Business Development Corporation Publication

CopyrightŠ2015 JBDC. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of JBDC. For Permission, please contact jbdc.net

Profile for Jamaica Business Development Corporation

True Stories Magazine Vol. 2  

The second edition of the True Stories Magazine features some of Jamaica's local Food and Beverage producers island-wide. Who have found in...

True Stories Magazine Vol. 2  

The second edition of the True Stories Magazine features some of Jamaica's local Food and Beverage producers island-wide. Who have found in...

Profile for jbdc
Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded