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Spur Tree Spices ups its game

Published:Friday | November 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Spur Tree Spices' multi-pack spices on display at the company's factory in Kingston. - Ian Allen/Photographer
CEO of Spur Tree Spices, Albert Bailey. - File

Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter

Spur Tree Spices Jamaica Limited has doubled its export sales since last year, pushing that segment of the business to 81 per cent of total revenue for the company amid addition of a slate of new products.

Spur Tree has also expanded into markets in Barbados and Florida, with plans to add The Bahamas by yearend, said new Chief Executive Officer Albert Bailey.

The nine-year-old spice company currently operates from the Garmex complex in Kingston with some 20 staff.

"In what has been a difficult time for most companies, we had a very good year," Bailey said of the sales for 2013, adding that 80 per cent of production is now aimed at the export market.

To drive overseas sales and increase its market profile, Spur Tree launched a ready-to-cook programme to showcase its products in the US market.

"We know that merchants need to add value to their current products, so we created a 'Hot Food' deli programme using Spur Tree seasonings," said Bailey.

Company director and former CEO Mohan Jagnarine, has the task of travel chef to showcase the range in the cooking demonstrations.

Bailey said the company is further hoping to land full HACCP certification in another six months, and has also opened its first overseas outlet in New York to push distribution there.

Spur Tree doubled its production capacity with its move to the Garmex plant in 2013 under a $15-million upgrade and has been focused on organic growth through market penetration and addition of new products.

The Garmex plant doubles the 5,000-square-foot leased factory on Woodglen Drive in Kingston, from where Spur Tree relocated.

"We moved from a 50-gallon unit to a 200-gallon, so we have now quadrupled our batch size. We (also) increased the kettle size, so we cook bigger batches," said Bailey.

The company has spent US$20,000 ($2.2 million) to date to boost output, said the new CEO. Spur Tree's portfolio has grown to 17 products, including ackee, callaloo, and a festival mix added recently for the export market.

A US$15,000 form, filler and sealer machine was installed at the factory to produce single-use sauce sachets for distribution to both domestic and overseas markets, while a new US$5,000 shrink wrap machine now allows the company to package products into packs of six.

The one- to six-ounce single-use sauces are aimed at restaurant operators, but the company will also be going after co-packing contracts.

"There is a tremendous opportunity there for us to package the single sachet sauces, so that is where that machine came in; and we are also targeting the local industry because a lot of people are looking for convenient ways to offer their sauces," said Bailey.

"We are also discussing with a major restaurant chain in Jamaica to produce a particular type of their sauce. It will have their brand, but we will produce it," he said.

Sour Tree aims to push volumes into the export market through its new six-pack shrink-wrapped packages.

Merchants "can buy more of our products at a lower price point," Bailey said.