Thu | Sep 21, 2017

King Pepper re-enters Canadian market

Published:Sunday | March 19, 2017 | 3:00 AMTameka Gordon
In this 2016 photo, Managing Director of King Pepper, Christine Wong, is pictured with a display of her company's products at the Jambana One World Festival in Toronto, Canada.
Christine Wong, the managing director at King Pepper Products Limited, located near Falmouth in Trelawny.
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King Pepper Products Limited, manufacturers of the Eaton's line of seasoning, has re-entered the Canadian market through exports and is hoping to push sales of the product there as well as increase its regional footprint.

The company was part of a Jampro-led trade mission to Canada last summer which has lead to one container exported to a new buyer later in the year.

"We had a distributor in Canada but about two and a half years ago, he went out of business. So, I was without representation there for the Eaton's brand for maybe about 18 months," King Pepper's managing director, Christine Wong, told Gleaner Business.

The mission to Toronto last summer connected the company with a buyer, which led to a container being shipped late last year.

The plan now is to push exports for the Eaton's line as well as the China Town brand of soy sauce made by King Pepper, she said.

"We knew that there was a demand for our products because we were getting emails. But we were unable to satisfy the demand because we didn't have anybody up there," Wong said.

King Pepper hopes, "conservatively", to ship at least three containers for the rest of the year to Canada.

TRYING TO DEEPEN FOOTPRINT

King Pepper otherwise has private label clients in Canada, as well as locally, and is anticipating that the orders should soon start rolling in.

"We are entering the busy season now, so we'll see," Wong said.

King Pepper is also trying to deepen its footprint in regional markets - it's already selling sauces in Barbados and the Cayman Islands, but areas such as Trinidad have now been earmarked as growth areas.

"King Pepper is always looking for other markets and not necessarily the big markets," Wong said.

Having modernised its operations in 2013, the company now has the capacity to meet the added demand. If needed, the company can ramp up to two shifts: "But we are not there yet," Wong said.

"Over the years, our focus has traditionally been on modernisation of equipment and just seeing how our processes can flow more smoothly and be less costly," she added.

NEW MACHINES ON HORIZON

The next capital outlay will cover new machines, which the sauce maker is planning to add, hopefully, this year.

"W are looking at different types of packing equipment to adhere to different market requirements. For instance, the United Kingdom is big on the shrink wrap trade, so we are looking at getting equipment that will allow us to shrink wrap those cardboard trays with the products in them very quickly and efficiently," she said.

Jampro estimates that there are more than 300,000 persons of Jamaican descent living in Canada, that the Caribbean food market there is valued at US$10 million and growing five per cent annually.

Canada remains a "key export market for Jamaican products...," the agency said in a release on King Pepper's ramped up presence there.

Jampro said it utilised its roster of distributors of Caribbean products in Canada to bring more Jamaican products to the country, and has developed a close relationship with the top importers which together, account for 50 per cent of the Canadian ethnic food market.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com