Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Eden Gardens extends product line to porridge

Published:Wednesday | April 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
The Eden Gardens yam and sweet potato porridge mix.

The maker of the Eden Gardens retail line of products has expanded from beverages into food with a porridge mix pitched at locals and Caribbean niche markets through the appeal of nutritionally sound Jamaican sweet potatoes and yams.

Eden Gardens Nutraceuticals, the brand under which the products are marketed, already produces teas and water that are sold through the Eden Gardens Wellness Centre in Kingston as well as retailers.

The company did a soft launch of the porridge mixes at the Denbigh Agricultural show last year, said assistant operations manager Jodiann Birch, and has since expanded distribution to Florida.

The product was developed by Dr Henry Lowe's Bio-Tech R&D Institute, which is in the business of research and development of health and wellness products from Jamaican plant-based materials.

Initially, Bio-Tech was also into commercialisation of the products, according to its website, but Birch said that aspect of the business was spun off into a new company called EG Wellness Brands.

She said the porridge mix, which was in development for two years, was inspired by the Olympic feats of Usain Bolt and the conversations surrounding the potency of Jamaican foods and their impact on the performance of the nation's athletes.

"We wanted it to be something that Jamaicans would love. Jamaicans drink a lot of porridge but we wanted a healthy alternative to the cornmeal or oats that have very high carbohydrate, calorie and sugar content," the company representative said.

The company first came up with a yam porridge mix but tweaked the mixture by reducing the starch content and adding coconut milk "to develop something truly Jamaican," she added.

The supply of yellow yam comes from a network of farmers in Trelawny and St Catherine. Eden Gardens works closely with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority to ensure that the farmers produce the right kind of yam.

Although the company is still 'tidying up' its distribution model, Birch said the porridge mixes are already being distributed through supermarket chains and wholesalers in downtown Kingston.

"We are now trying to extend our reach to the other parishes," she said.

Pressed on the level of investment in developing the products, Birch said she could not provide a definitive figure, even while noting that projections are for at least a 50 per cent return on investment in the first year.

The porridge mixes are targeted at students, young professionals, athletes and diabetics. They are packaged in 65-gram cups and 120-gram sachets. The company plans to roll out a "bulk family serving" targeted at schools and other institutions, Birch said.

unexpected market

So far, "a few pallets'" have been exported to Florida and have broken into an unexpected market segment - Hispanics. The company is also targeting California, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia.

"We will have distributors for each state so they can just focus on these areas," said Birch.

Eden Gardens works with the state investment promotion agency to identify niche markets with heavy Caribbean populations to channel the products.

"We are looking at the areas in the US where you have a very high concentration of Caribbean groups because it is easier to market it to them. Then, once you have covered that demographic, you can target other areas," she said.

Under the Eden Gardens brand, the company also sells herbal and medicinal teas, which have grown to eight flavours from the original five flavours at its launch in 2012, as well an alkaline bottled-water product.