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Rainforest bets on Caribbean push

Published:Friday | January 25, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Brian Jardim, CEO of Rainforest Seafoods Limited. - File

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

Brian Jardim, chief executive officer of Rainforest Seafoods Limited, says that having wrapped up the J$1-billion expansion at Slipe Road, his next round of investments will be in new lines of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean markets.

The company is shooting for 25 per cent more revenue, with Jardim noting that outside of Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, are the most promising for the development of new markets by virtue of their population.

"We currently sell our Rainforest products in 10 Caribbean islands - Trinidad, St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua, Barbados, St Vincent, St Kitts, Haiti and Cayman," he told the Financial Gleaner.

Rainforest, which was incorporated in 1997, now has offices in Guyana, Belize and Honduras, with its own processing plants and fishing vessels in these locations.

Headquartered in Montego Bay, the company employs 250 and distributes more than 400 types of fish and shellfish to customers across the Caribbean.

"Our products are sold through local distributors and/or directly to larger hotels and supermarket chains. We do not do our own distribution within the islands," Jardim said.

Quick-service restaurant

The plans for 2013 includes products for the quick-service restaurant (QSR) market, hotels and the Caribbean consumer, which will be branded with new Rainforest Ready packaging.

"We're spending several million dollars on bringing the various product lines to market. This includes equipment specific to each QSR for their various offerings, product testing, advertising, in-field promotions and tastings and packaging (for the consumer products), in addition to equipment for pickling, breading, marinating, smoking and/or cooking various levels of value-added seafood and other proteins for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean," said Jardim.

"It is a very exciting new thrust for us and is expected to increase our staff complement by another 100-plus team members when fully ramped up," he said.

Also being eyed for a Caribbean rollout is Rainforest's nascent food service business, Fish Pot restaurant, into which the company has so far pumped J$50 million. The newest outlet was opened in Kingston late last year.

Max Jardim, management trainee with Fish Pot, said response to the all-fish menu is promising.

"Hopefully, we can open one or two more (restaurants) per annum," said Max.

"The exciting thing is that escoveitch fish, pepper shrimp, and bammy and festival should translate nicely into the wider Caribbean markets as everyone loves Jamaican food."

Local produce used

The restaurant uses only local ingredients and produce in preparing meals, said Max. The menu includes soups, fritters, steamed fish, and curried shrimp as everyday offerings.

Fish Pot is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rainforest.

The Kingston operation is the second outlet, but the company considers it the main operation.

"Half-Way Tree is our first real go in the Corporate Area and technically our first location. We actually started to run a Fish Pot pilot programme in Christiana, Manchester, about two years ago to perfect the product," said Max.

"It's the first seafood-oriented quick-service restaurant in Jamaica, so we needed to figure out what the right value mix was - what meals worked, what flavours, what kind of price points and portioning - before bringing the product mainstream. We are now confident that the brand is ready for an islandwide roll-out," he said.

"The only thing affecting further expansion is finding the right locations. Moreover, we aren't limiting ourselves to Jamaica. The long-term goal is Caribbean thrust, bringing a Jamaican-born product overseas."

Rainforest Seafoods specialises in thermoforming, shrink-wrapping, bagging, blister and vacuum packing, processing product for sale as individual steaks, fillets or headless.

Its 4,000-square-foot climate-controlled processing facility at Freeport, Montego Bay includes a central warehouse with capacity of five million pounds of frozen product.

In 1995, Jardim partnered with Ian Dear to form Island Entertainment Brands, whose operations includes a Margaritaville franchise. In March 2010, Jardim sold his interest in Island Entertainment to focus on expanding Rainforest Seafoods.