Skool Juice still on recess
More than three months after two private-sector companies answered the Government’s call to quickly develop new food products in order to utilise the abundance of crops which farmers were unable to move, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, they are still waiting for a launch date for these products.
In March, Managing Director of Trade Winds Peter McConnell told The Gleaner that the Government reached out to his company to help incorporate some of the crops which were in glut into its operations. Tomatoes were in abundance and the response from the company was swift.
“We got samples of the tomato and came up with a tomato-pineapple juice, which we gave the ministry samples of and gave them some pricing. They were happy with the flavour and happy with the pricing,” he told The Gleaner then. The company then stocked up on tomatoes, which were crushed, strained and the resulting purée frozen and stored, awaiting word from the agriculture ministry to give the green light for its bottling and delivery.
The vegetable-fruit drink combination has pineapple and tomato blended and flavoured with ginger. It was to be marketed as Skool Juice and was to be distributed by Nutrition Products Limited when the new academic year began in September.
The start of the school term has since been pushed back to October, but it seems that Skool Juice is still on recess.
“So far, nothing,” was the response from McConnell last week when he was asked what was the word from the agriculture ministry.
McConnell opined that the delay might have been caused by the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus, and expressed the hope that word would be forthcoming on the matter soon. “I am assuming that once we have a clear understanding of when school is going to reopen, they will give us something definitive, but for now there is nothing new on it.”
The managing director said given the company’s state of readiness, it would not need much lead time to get the new product on the market.
“Not a lot [of time] because we have the packaging, we have the raw material, we have everything, so is not a big deal,” he said.
However, when The Gleaner contacted Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green on Sunday, he indicated that there might be some way to go before Skool Juice gets out of the freezer.
“We have to have some discussions with the new minister of education. What we had envisioned is that we would facilitate the private sector through a buy-back programme to develop products that could be used across system. These are products that could be used in the education system that possibly could be resold on the regular market.
LOOKING TO NEW MARKETS
“So what we did was to facilitate that sort of product development with our private-sector partners by providing them with the raw material though a buy-back programme. One product developed was the Skool Juice, and what we need to have now is further discussions to say one, can it be infused into our school-feeding programme through Nutrition Products Limited.”
Green, who was the state minister in the last administration, told The Gleaner in March that Salada, in response to the Government’s call, was looking into whether some of the fruit purées could be sprayed, dried and made into crystals and stored, which could be reconstituted into a drink formula when needed.
“We are very excited about it,” Green acknowledged. “If we could make crystals from some of these juices, we could come up with a whole new value chain.”
Another possible avenue for the utilisation of these products identified then was in the care packages provided by the Government, as well as low-cost, high-nutrition options for use in hospitals, infirmaries, children’s homes and penal institutions. However, Green said that some of these state institutions already have contractual arrangements for the provision of food and refreshment, but it was an avenue he was prepared to explore to help to ease the oversupply of domestic crops.