Local candy start-up puts toe in English waters

(L) AARONS... I hadn't expected to be exporting this quickly. (R) Sweetie has already started to export to Jamaican areas in London.

Sweetie Confectionery hard candies packaged in mixed flavours.

MOGUL in the making, and Chief Executive Officer of Sweetie Confectionery Patria Kaye Aarons has signed a deal with United Kingdom-based distribution companies Ashanti Imports and JLB Shipping.

The entrepreneur, who started the production Caribbean-flavoured sweeties about eight months ago, has already exported 40 cases of sweets via the distributors. What's more, Aarons has also received strong interest from St Croix in the US Virgin Islands and is looking to enter the US market by Christmas 2015.

She stated that the deal to supply the UK was conceptualised based on an estimated four per cent Jamaicans living in the country. Projections are that the new market will allow her to increase sales revenue by up to 25 per cent.

"I hadn't expected to be exporting this quickly," Aarons stated. "I knew it was important to secure markets outside of Jamaica if the business was going to not only be sustainable but profitable. However, I really didn't think that this would be possible until two years into operation."

Currently, Sweetie Confectionery manufactures flavoured candies including jackfruit, mango, guava, pomegranate and june plum. The flavours were exclusively developed for Sweetie Confectionery by the Scientific Research Council and are manufactured in Kingston using oils extracted from Caribbean fruits, according to Aarons.

Sweetie is co-packed at the island's only commercial confectionery manufacturing facility, Miel, which has been in operation since 1988, and is distributed to various wholesale and retail channels across the island by Frozen Delights.

Aarons's export plans were fast-tracked following a Business to Business matchmaking session facilitated by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) at the recently staged Diaspora Conference.

The promotions company played a facilitating role between stakeholders looking to create mutually commercial benefits. The event focused on one-to-one pre-scheduled meetings aimed at assisting local companies in accessing partnerships and equity funding to grow and expand their businesses.

Noel Dempster, owner of UK distribution company Ashani Imports, is one of a few Jamaicans importing and selling Jamaican products in London. He stated that while there is a demand for Jamaican products in the country, many local manufacturers experience difficulty with exporting based on the quality of the products.

"Quality is crucial. Jamaican manufacturers need to realise it's them against the world. Not only are your products competing with similar ones from Caricom, but there is also competition from the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. Whatever you hope to export has to stand up well to these competitors," Aarons stated.

Locally, Sweetie products can be found in a number of locations, mainly in Kingston including the Progressive Group, Hi-Lo, Fontana pharmacies and retail shops.

Published Date: 
Wednesday, July 1, 2015