Sun | Aug 20, 2017

JP invests in cold room, tweaks banana chips recipe

Published:Sunday | September 4, 2016 | 9:00 AMTameka Gordon
In this September 17, 2014 photo, a student of Half Way Tree Primary School holds up a snack pack of St Mary’s banana chips and flyer. The company has adjusted the recipe for its banana chips, which began hitting the market in late August 2016.

Jamaica Producers Group is investing in cold storage for fresh fruit, alongside restructuring of the food operations - all part of a $200-million programme.

The conglomerate's newly created JP Tropical Group, which incorporates JP Snacks, JP Farms, and rum cake maker Tortuga, has also tweaked the flavour and packaging of its St Mary banana chips line in search of a more traditional taste profile.

Banana chips are a favourite Jamaican snack.

"What is planned is the introduction of a state-of-the-art cold room for fresh produce storage and distribution for our banana and pineapple businesses," said managing director of Jamaica Producers Group Jeffrey Hall.

The 2,000-square-foot facility will be commissioned by year end.

COLD-STORAGE

JP sells ripe bananas and pineapples into the local trade. The cold-storage room will allow the company to moderate temperatures to manage the ripening process so that vendors collect fresh ripe bananas for sale every day, Hall said.

In the meantime, the company is making changes to the basic recipe for its banana chips for the first time in 15 years. The new products began hitting supermarkets last month, with plans to ramp up distribution to other channels this week.

"Essentially, our goal was to create an upgraded banana chips," said Neil Crum-Ewing, head of commercial operations for JP Snacks/JP Farms. "It's a newer look, more like our plantain chip bags. The packing is in the original colours, so it's not hard to find. However, it's metal/foil," he said

The product is salty, but there is no residual salt in the bag and it's 50 per cent crunchier than the regular chip, said Crum-Ewing.

For the launch, the company offered 10 per cent more chips per bag for the same price. JP Snacks will test market reception for the new packaging before deciding finally on whether to keep or discard the original package.

"We will be driven by the consumer and the market. It depends on what the preferences are but we feel that there will be some transfer of consumer from the traditional bag to this bag. We will watch it very closely, and they'll really help us to make that determination," said Crum-Ewing.

The change in the flavour is intended to be "more like old-time traditional banana chips when grandmothers made banana chips in a kitchen at home", he said.

JJP Tropical Group will operate from Retirement Road in Kingston, the same complex where the group relocated the Tortuga bakery.

"Between the bakery and the ripening centre and the new recipe profile for our banana chips, JP has invested $200 million when all is said and done," Hall said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com