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Tourist desire for crocus drives repackaging of Jablum blend

Published:Friday | August 12, 2016 | 12:23 AMSteven Jackson
Norman Grant , CEO of Mavis Bank Coffee Factory.

Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Limited, makers of Jablum coffee, will in two months start islandwide sales of its repackaged Jamaica Blue Mountain Premium Blend, which aims to satisfy tourists and locals’ affinity for the traditional crocus bags.
The company sent its first shipment of the new look Jablum coffee to north coast shops in the hospitality sector two weeks ago. Supermarkets are to be supplied later this year.
Essentially, Mavis Bank switched the product packaging from only its existing red and blue cloth bag to a burlap or crocus bag. Most Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) roasted coffee products are sold in burlap bags, and the repackaging aims to appeal to the sensibilities of shoppers.
Blends usually contain 30 per cent JBM coffee and therefore generally sell for half the price of 100 per cent JBM coffee. The rest of the beans for blends often come from other countries.
“In the hospitality and tourism sector they want the burlap bag and at this time the take-up of the blend in the cloth bag is attractive in only some parts of the market,” said chief executive officer of Mavis Bank, Norman Grant, while noting the company might continue utilising the cloth bag in certain parts of the retail trade.
“We will continue but that particular line doesn't do very well in the travel market — they like the crocus feel — but in Kingston they like the cloth,” he said.
The growth of sales of its blended products along with its 100 per cent roasted JBM products would seek to increase value added at Mavis Bank which still sells the bulk of its coffee as green or unroasted beans to Japan.
“Roasted coffee business is something that we want to expand and we think the domestic market can offer some of that increase,” he said.
Grant avoided disclosing numbers or targets but Mavis Bank earned roughly $100 million in profit in year 2015. The outlook for this year remains upbeat.
“We are projecting a very optimistic year for 2016,” said the coffee producer. “Our optimism is based on our projections, the actions of the board  and management and also the introduction of new products.”
Mavis Bank introduced Jablum Gold, Caribbean coffee, True Blue variants to its line of products since its 2011 acquisition by partners Jamaica Producers Group and Pan Jamaican Investment Trust. At that time farmers were paid some $3,000 per box of coffee but current rates are at an all time high of some $12,000 a box. That resulted in the cost of coffee doubling for consumers, especially 100 per cent JBM.
The repackaging of more affordable blends creates tiered value in the market.
Said grant: “100 per cent JBM is pricey because the price we pay to farmers is very high. So we thought it prudent to produce an affordable product at a price point for locals and overseas travellers”.
JBM blend sells roughly for $2,300 per pound, compared to 100 per cent JBM at more than $4,100 a pound.