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Can tea stop cancer? TOPS adds turmeric tea to line up

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2012
Norman Wright, managing director of Perishables Jamaica Limited, is seen here offering samplings of TOPS herbal teas at Grocery Innovations Canada in October 2010. Andrea Reid of Jampro is at second left; the other two women are unidentified. - Contributed

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

Norman Wright, managing director of Perishables Jamaica Limited, is in the final stages of testing and is weeks away from placing a turmeric-based tea product on the market under its Tops herbal teas brand.

The tea bags will be packaged as Sipacupa Ital Jamaican Turmeric Tea. The spice is more associated with curry.

The product is being marketed for its anti-cancer properties linked to the circumin found in turmeric, among other health benefits.

"We expect to soft launch the product during the next six to eight weeks," Wright told Sunday Business. "We are doing prototype testing at the moment."

Other teas coming

Perishables' line-up already includes peppermint, bissy, ginger mint, cinnamon, cinnamint and cullenmint, ginger, cerasee, lemon grass, pimento, and sarsaparilla. Wright also plans to roll out other teas after the turmeric launch, including one made from guinea hen weed and another from the Moringa leaf.

Wright projects that Sipacupa will initially add revenue of J$2 million to J$3 million to portfolio earnings of J$50 million from Perishables' range of teas.

The anti-cancer potential of active ingredient circumin has been detailed in different medical publications. Circumin is a polyphenol derived from the plant Curcuma longa, commonly called turmeric. Its scientific name is diferuloylmethane.

"Extensive research over the last 50 years has indicated this polyphenol can both prevent and treat cancer. The anti-cancer potential of circumin stems from its ability to suppress proliferation of a wide variety of tumour cells, among other beneficial effects for the disease. It is also described as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent," said Wright.

"We expect that the unique product Sipacupa Ital Jamaican Turmeric Tea root bags, attractively packaged and with other products in the range - guinea hen weed, Moringa leaf, Neem leaf, among others - to be launched during the next six months. We expect they will sell themselves," he said.

Innovative method

The new health teas will be distributed for local and overseas markets directly from offices of Perishables Jamaica at 2 Leonard Road in Kingston.

"We expect that we will sell J$2 million to J$3 million of the product during the first year, subject to market acceptance of this innovative method of enjoying turmeric while gaining some of the health benefits. We will focus as usual on exports where we are able to grow our business," Wright said.

Other teas have been developed over a 30-year period with $150 million spent in research and development. Tops, which to date averages J$50 million in annual revenues, expects sales of J$45 million from these older products alone in 2012 which would be 11 per cent more than the $40 million earned in 2011.

These teas are already on offer in Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) the United States and Caricom countries. In all markets, sales ranged between 2-4 per cent increases in 2011.

Tops Jamaican Herbal teas is 31 years old, having opened doors in October 1980. The company is chiefly engaged in manufacturing with primary distributors being Cari-Med Limited in Jamaica; Blessing Trading & Distribution and Montego Distributors Limited in Canada and JLB Imports, Sunshine Tropical and Sunland Foods in the UK.

For Tops, Peppermint teas is the best seller in all markets, followed by cerasee and ginger. The company employs 11 workers directly and 11 indirectly, also purchasing herbs
and spices from farmers all across Jamaica, but especially in the south
Manchester area.

As noted on the company's website,
the herbs and spices used in the production of TOPS Jamaican herbal teas
are solar dried and/or sun dried under hygienic conditions that meet
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point food-safety
standards.

"The farming and drying process for herbs
and spices has been perfected over many generations to capture the
tropical flavour, aroma and taste that is unique to Jamaican herbs and
spices."

As part of the processing of dried herbs and
spices, ground and un-ground, semi-finished and finished products are
sampled and tested for microorganisms by the microbiology laboratory of
the Food Storage and Infestation Division of the Ministry of Industry,
Investment and Commerce.

Dried herbs and spices are
packaged in poly bags while grinding of the dried herbs and spices to
the correct particle size, for processing into tea bags, takes place
using stainless steel Fitzpatrick-branded hammer
mills.

The ground herbs and spices are made pure - 100
per cent - or blended into tea bags using the MAISA bagging
machine.

Perishables since its incorporation in
October 1980 has developed 16 flavours of teas, manufactured and sold
under the Tops brand.

Packages other
brands

The company also packages other brands under
contract, including Jamaican Country Style, Caribbean Exotic Gourmet,
Nature Fresh, Sonita, and Jamaica Bahamas Imports. It also sells ground
herbs and spices to Tetley Tea Company Jamaica
Limited.

Perishables is the owner of a 20-acre farm
that produces some of the dried peppermint and fever grass used in its
teas. Additional raw materials are sourced from various local farmers,
processors and other suppliers totalling more than
400.

Raw materials that are unavailable locally are
acquired from CARICOM countries and other overseas sources, the company
said.

business@gleanerjm.com