Fri | Dec 2, 2016

The history of Caribbean Producers Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Members of the team at CPJ

Caribbean Producers Jamaica was established in April 1994 by Montego Bay businessman Mark Hart and his colleague, Thomas Tyler, with its central focus being to serve the burgeoning hospitality and tourism sector as an integrated food-service distributor.

Twenty years later, the company is still going strong, headquartered at the Montego Freeport, St James, in a 120,000-square foot facility, which houses offices, manufacturing plants and refrigerated and dry warehouse space, offering a wide array of dairy, grocery, meats, seafood, spirits and wines and its own line of beverages and meat products.

The company was conceptualised by the duo after Hart, who was previously involved in the garment construction business, made his exit from that sector and subsequently recognised that there was an increasing demand nationally for international wines, spirits and high-end food products. This market was yet untapped.

In 1998, after just four years of operation, CPJ expanded its scope, and began supplying fountain products consisting of high-quality fruit juice concentrates and sodas. Today, its Cariburst Juices and Frozen Drinks Mixes are manufactured and packaged at its facility in Freeport, Montego Bay, and it remains the sole distributor of Island Oasis frozen drink mixes and Kan Pak ice-cream mixes on the island.

By 2003, a year before its 10th anniversary, CPJ, which is also a member of the Hart Group of Companies, had made such a great impact in the island and grew so exponentially, that its directors decided to establish a retail sales division, which was, at the time, aimed at filling the dire need for international wines and spirits by individuals within the island.

It was as a result of that strategic move that the CPJ brand became renowned for what many dubbed an "impressive portfolio of fine wines and spirits", including Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Champagne, as well as Napa Valley wines from California, Rieslings from Washington State, Argentinean Merlots, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons and Italian Chiantis.

As part of another prudent move to ensure further growth, the company listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange on July 20, 2011, and a little more than a year later, in December 2012, opened the CPJ Market, Deli and CRU Bar and Lounge at the Courtyard Complex, at Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston.

Braving Jamaica's harsh economic climate, in 2013, CPJ created employment opportunities for more than 100 Jamaicans through the establishment of CPJ Kingston and the construction of its meat-processing facilities. This venture also had a direct impact on more than 400 farmers across the island.

In this its 20th year, CPJ partnered with Sealed Air Diversey Care to distribute its products locally and, in June signed a contract with Jamaica Beverages Limited to distribute its brands - Chubby, Juciful, Fruta, Busta and Cool Runnings water on the North Coast and also began putting plans in motion for the opening of CPJ in St Lucia.

CPJ's successes have not gone unrecognised. The company has garnered a large number of awards over the years, including the Eddie Hall Award for New Manufacturer of the Year in 2013; and the Jamaica Stock Exchange's Best Website and Junior Market Best Practice Awards in 2012. It has also been awarded the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association's Purveyor of the Year award eight times between 2002 and 2012.

Co-founder Mark Hart was also recognised in 2012 by The Gleaner and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica as one of the nation's 50 business leaders under 50 years old, in celebration of Jamaica's 50th year of Independence.