Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Sweetie confectionery lands US distribution deal

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2015 | 12:01 AMTameka Gordon
Patria-Kaye Aarons, CEO of Sweetie Confectioneries.

Candy company Sweetie Confectionery has expanded its reach to the United States through distributors Eve Sales.

The candy maker also added a new product in August, Paradise Plum, which has

more than "doubled revenues", said CEO

Patria-Kaye Aarons.

Sweetie sent off its first container to the new distributors about two weeks a week ago.

Aarons said she signed the distribution agreement in New York at the end of November, and sent off the shipment a week later and it was to have been cleared from the ports last Friday.

"It's been super-fast," Aarons said of the expansion.

The Bronx-based distributor has been in operation since 1965 and has tentacles stretching across the US.

"We've built a 50-year-old business on importing quality nostalgic food brands that have been a part of Caribbean family traditions for generations. We are committed to maintaining the accessibility of these great products and are happy to add Sweetie to the line of iconic Jamaican brands we already offer," said Eve Sales.

The new deal will expose Sweetie to a potential market of Caribbean customers four times the size of its Jamaican market, Aarons said.

"The shipment physically lands in New York. The distributor will truck it to all of the diaspora locations," said Aarons.

Sweetie Confectionery is especially interested in reaching other densely Jamaican-populated US states such as Florida, Atlanta and Connecticut, all of which are accessible through Eve.

Other export markets

Sweetie has been operating for just a year with its products now consistently exported to the United Kingdom and US Virgin Islands, having added St Croix a few months ago.

The company now distributes to St Croix every other month and twice a month to the UK, Aarons said.

"In an economy where small businesses are struggling to survive, access to foreign markets is a critical objective. Sweetie Confectionery is aggressively pursuing new export markets," said the businesswoman.

"The success or even survival of Sweetie will have to depend not only on the three million Jamaicans that live in Jamaica, but the also the potential market of six million living outside her shores."

Sweetie Confectionery makes jackfruit, mango, guava, pomegranate and June plum-flavoured hard candies using oils extracted from local fruits.

Paradise Plum, which was added in August, is a hard candy with a sweet shell and sour-flavoured core.

Sweetie Confectionery's products are produced by Miel Sweets on behalf of Aarons' company, and local distribution is handled by Frozen Delights. Sweetie candies are now available in 126 outlets locally.

St Thomas and Portland remain the only parishes outside the company's reach, "but only because the frequency with which purchases will be happening on that side of the world is not as robust", Aarons said.

Sweetie is aiming to grow export sales to 60 per cent of revenue by 2020 as a safeguard against foreign exchange fluctuations.

"When I first decided to explore the idea of starting Sweetie, I did preliminary costings for production. The slide in the Jamaican dollar has caused those projections to almost double and the need to earn foreign currency was made all too clear," she said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com