Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Jamaica Producers to package fried snacks for clients, smaller Tortuga cakes

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
Managing Director Jeffrey Hall addresses the annual general meeting of Jamaica Producers Group Limited on Friday June 22, 2018. Chairman Charles Johnston is at centre, and Group Finance Director Alan Buckland is at right.

Jeffrey Hall, managing director of food and logistics conglomerate Jamaica Producers Group Limited, says for this year and beyond the company would place itself at the centre of major trends that fuel demand within the region and internationally.

This has led to the development of health drinks in shot-sized packaging, and rum cakes in smaller packaging under the Tortuga line.

But Jamaica Producers will also be packaging 'tostone' snacks for other companies under contract, which are produced using a 'press and fry' method. The tostone snacks - including banana, cassava, breadfruit and plantain - will be produced from a new line at the company's factory in the Dominican Republic.

Food and drink accounts for around half of revenues for JP, whose sales last year topped $16 billion.

Hall said building internationally diversified speciality food groups is a headline goal for the company.

"What that means to us is to take seriously the building of diversifying and emphasis on food products in which we have a niche competitive advantage," he reported to shareholders during the company's annual general meeting on Friday.

"We like to be No. 1 or No. 2 in our sector. We don't want to be in businesses that are highly commoditised and which are the natural province of mainline food multinationals. All our businesses have a special niche component and we are prepared to do more in that space."

Jamaica Producers is investing $60 million in the tostones and small Tortuga rum cake projects. But as for the group's full capex programme for 2018, Hall said the numbers would only be released after each project was approved by the board.

"The projects that we have in train include expansion of our juice factory in The Netherlands, expansion of our food processing facilities in the Caribbean, both in St Mary and Tortuga; and we have ongoing developments at the logistics centre and automotive facility. Those are the big capex programmes we have within the business," he told the Financial Gleaner on Friday following the company's annual general meeting.

The tostones snacks are intended for the Latino market in the United States.

The health juices, meantime, are being produced for the European market by JP's Netherlands-based subsidiary, Hoogesteger.

Hall said that with the decline of long-life sugary drinks and their replacement with fresh and healthy foods, Hoogesteger has developed a "super juice made of spinach, celery and apple" which has seen a 300 per cent increase in volumes, since its roll-out.

Hoogester also launched a shot-sized ginger and Vitamin C product for sale in Europe. The company's ginger inputs have climbed fiftyfold from 3,000 tonnes two years ago to 150,000 tonnes.

Hall said new methodologies for producing long-life juice, including electrical shock and applying pressure under cold conditions, has not only led to fresher and healthier juices, but also juices in the smaller units that fit the preference of the health market.

On the logistics side of the operation, Hall said the conglomerate, which is part of a consortium bidding for the Norman Manley International Airport, has already prepared a capex plan for the project, alongside its partners.

Jamaica Producers, in combination with Corporacion Aeroportuario Del Este, SAS/China Harbour Engineering Company Limited and Gulfstream Petroleum S de RL, is one of eight candidates expected to bid for the airport concession.

Hall told shareholders that the company foresaw significant capital expenditure in relation to the project.

"We have planned a mix of debt and equity [financing], in conjunction with the consortium, that will allow us to do that," he said.

Hall told the Financial Gleaner that Jamaica Producers' stake in the consortium was 30 per cent.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com