Winemaker Journey’s End laying groundwork to expand
Stredie Thompson, the newer owner of Journey’s End Wine Company, has already added two new flavours to the company’s portfolio of fruit wines and is on the brink of securing a 3,196,000-square-foot facility in Kingston to grow the business, a strategy that includes growing its export markets.
Journey’s End, which was started by Howard Coxe in 2012, changed hands about two years after Coxe approached Thompson, a honey farmer, about merging the wine operation with his start-up honey business.
Thompson now runs the company with his son and Chief Operation Officer Matthew Thompson, along with his brother, John Thompson. The three men envision doubling Journey’s End current output and securing a customer base in the United States and Canada by 2023; while leveraging the brand and production capabilities of Journey’s End to build out the honey operation.
“We want to have 70 per cent of sales coming from exports and the remaining 30 per cent in local sales. Our plan is to contract a distributor for both the overseas and local markets, and we are also taking steps to improve our e-commerce business,” Matthew told the Financial Gleaner in an interview on Monday. Journey Ends now distributes to British Virgin Islands. Part of the growth in export sales is expected to come from the negotiation of new contracts through Jampro’s Export Max III programme.
Since the acquisition, the Thompsons have introduced to the market soursop and honey ginger wines. Journey’s End now makes 10 types of wine, including its signature ackee, sorrel, ginger, pimento berry, noni and sugar cane. The company also earns from contract manufacturing arrangements, referred to as co-packing.
The wines are sold in 750-ml and 150-ml bottles, through distribution channels that now include Hi-Lo supermarkets at Barbican, Liguanea and Manor Park in Kingston.
Previously, Journey’s End was only distributed in MegaMart stores and at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. Now, the new owners want to kick things up a notch by leasing shop space at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, as well as to introduce to the market a moringa wine and another that Thompson is not yet ready to disclose.
“We want to ensure that those wines we already have on the market are doing well before we launch the moringa wine. But we anticipate that it will be a big hit because of the medicinal benefits associated with the plant,” Thompson said. “The other product, we can’t say just what it is.”
In the interim, the Thompsons have set aside funds to purchase a larger filtration system and a four-sprout bottle-filling machine to increase production capacity once its settles into its new home later this year.
Journey’s End currently operates from a 1,000-square-foot facility at 121 Duke Street in Kingston and has a team of four managing the operation. The Thompsons are eyeing the addition of at least two individuals in the administrative and production departments to assist in driving up output to satisfy its growing client base.
The wine company, which, according to Thompson, fits the bill of a small business operation but wants to grow to midsize, got started when Coxe developed a noni wine to help in the prevention of many ailments, including headaches, heart disease, arthritis, cancers, gastric ulcers, sprains, depression, muscle aches and pains, and high blood pressure.
The product was targeted at individuals wanting to experience unconventional wines and to use as flavouring for food dishes.