Stewart-McConnell gives birth to Orijin
Barbara Ellington, Lifestyle Editor
Jamie and Mark McConnell are members of two of Jamaica's wealthiest families, but they are not sitting around waiting to inherit. Neither are they content to continue working to further increase family fortunes. They have taken the plunge and launched out on their own. The result, the formation of a new business ... Bare Nutrition Company Limited and their first product ... Orijin grapefruit juice, orange juice and coconut water.
The Gleaner was first to tour the spanking-new 75,000 square foot factory just nine days into operation, at its Flankers, Montego Bay home. The young McConnells are literally taking baby steps, they have a small team of six and their hands are work worn from doing most of the work themselves. During the construction of the factory, Mark acted as contractor, sourcing experts to carry out the work over the 18 months it took to build.
He worked so hard, he surprised many, from sun up to sun down, he rolled up his sleeves and got dirty. And in another two weeks, the building will be completed. But most of the machinery and equipment for the factory is now installed. Some were bought second-hand at auctions overseas, other pieces are brand new.
"But we love it," Jamie said, stating right off the bat that, contrary to the assumptions from many quarters that she used daddy's financial resources to start up, nothing could be further from the truth. "We have used our personal savings and got bank loans to do this. I am not saying that our parents wouldn't help, we just have not asked, we got lots of moral support from my dad and brother and from Mark's parents and family," she said, adding that her father Gordon 'Butch' Stewart is extremely happy to see that the future is promising for his grandchildren.
There are no hard feelings from her family either, Jamie said, adding that she remains a director of Sandals Resorts International and she helps out when needed, but they understand that she has to be with her husband in the venture. She wants the perception of daddy's money to go away because, "the notion diminishes the blood, sweat and tears that my husband has put into our business," she said.
As for their reasons for branching out at such a financially difficult time, Mark said, "At age 33 and with two children, a wife and a baby on the way, I want my own. I am not going to sit around waiting for something to fall into my lap. I could continue to have a boss and ask permission to do something, but I wanted my own independence, I saw the gap in the juice-manufacturing industry and I have decided to fill it," he said in response to our question of his being a competitor to the family-owned Tru-Juice products.
For Jamie, it was a need to stay closer to home now that her family is growing that made the transition to personal business independence easier.
Using the slogan 'we leave nutrition to nature', Orijin juices are available in two sizes: 11/2 litre and 3.4 ml. the smaller size retails for anywhere between $115 and $126 and the larger bottle costs just over $400.
Both juices and coconut water are natural, no sugar or preservatives are added and it is not from concentrate. The shelf life for the juices is 24 days unopened outside the refrigerator. Once opened, it will keep for five days inside the fridge if capped. Jamie and Mark say they have seen a distinct global shift to healthier ways of eating and they want to be suppliers of healthy foods. They also carry a line of healthy baby food.
The duo enjoyed the growing pains, from selecting dozens of samples of bottles and caps to designing the labels together and even hitting the road to make deliveries.
"We have plans for more juices. we source our fruits locally or from the Caricom market if none is available here, but our aim is to export regionally and internationally as well," she said. Her husband is envisioning the day when he will be earning foreign exchange. So, until they are in a position to employ more staff, Jamie and Mark will continue to work side by side, bottling and packaging till four in the mornings most days.
Orijin juices are now available in some 20 retail stores islandwide, including:
Kingston: Loshusan, Barbican, Lee's Food Fair, Red Hills Road, XXtra, Brooklyn, Clock Tower, Brooklyn, Twin Gates, Carihome, Manor Park; John R Wong, New Kingston; Sovereign, Liguanea, General Foods, Liguanea, Shoppers Fair, Liguanea (starting today) and Bite Me (lunch delivery service).
Montego Bay: Fontana, Fairview, Progressive Grocers, Whitter Village, Rainforest Seafood Market, Fairview, Mobay Chocolate Factory, Fairview, Margaritaville, Sangster International Airport, Tryall Commissary, Tryall Shoppers Fair, Blue Diamond Shoppers Fair, Westage.
After tasting samples of Orijin grapefruit and orange juice, here is what some persons had to say:
Like both, love packaging, would drink it.
Like the orange, it works, tastes fresh.
Grapefruit is bitter, will cut my nature, orange juice is very good.
Grapefruit juice tastes like the real thing, orange juice is sweet.
The orange juice is very nice, I like it.
Grapefruit juice is great, thank God, natural grapefruit juice is back.
Grapefruit juice: pleasantly bitter, I don't like when some people oversweeten the grapefruit juice. does not have the typical chemical bite of bottled juice.
Orange juice: I certainly like it more than the average currently available bottle juice. no chemical bite - but it still does not taste freshly squeezed.
Orange juice - Tastes very light, refreshing and not too sweet. It seems to be freshly squeezed.
Grapefruit juice - Really bitter and not to my liking.
Grapefruit juice: Consistent with the taste of grapefruit, though not freshly squeezed. A bit sour and not likely to be refreshing in large quantities.
Orijin orange juice is quite refreshing, I love it.
Smooth and sweet and I like things smooth and sweet.
Orange juice is very good, not too sweet, refreshing.
It tastes like orange juice straight from the orange. It seems nothing was added.
I extremely enjoyed the orange juice. It was smooth, light and not too sweet. It is very pleasant. The grapefruit was OK; not really my thing.
Not bad, not as sweet as some other brands from concentrate. Like the little zest that it has, not bad.
This is really great grapefruit juice. I hope it lasts longer than that other brand that also tasted good but was gone overnight. The orange juice is good too.