Jamaicans living overseas love a good patty and would want to consume it piping hot with a flaky crust and juicy filling. Finding a suitably representative product in the United Kingdom (UK) has been a challenge, and many Jamaicans were forced to import frozen quantities to keep satisfied. This was the experience of Edward Johnston, the founder of Port Royal Patties, one of the leading patty brands in the UK.
For many years he yearned for the taste of a real patty. He resorted to importing large quantities until it struck him that he should try to produce a decent patty in the UK.
It began as an academic project, preparing a project for an MBA course he was doing at City University. He wrote a grade-A business plan about producing patties in the UK and that plan leapt from the page and has etched itself into the consumption habits of Jamaicans in the UK.
Port Royal Patties is now 10 years old and is fast growing. It is swiftly becoming the leading patty and is the preferred brand among retail shops.
The 10th anniversary is not being celebrated with much fanfare. Instead, Johnston and the team are refocusing their efforts and concentrating on growing the brand and expanding their output and reach.
Among the strategies being adopted is an increase in the retail trade. They have recently joined forces with leading restaurant chain Caribbean Scene and invested in a kiosk located inside Westfield shopping mall in Stratford, East London, as well as a trailer outside Caribbean Scene Royale along the banks of the Thames in the Docklands.
The company also made a major move recently when it partnered with well-known catering company Plantation Inn to supply patties during the Jamaica 50 celebrations at Jamaica House at the O2 in London.
Johnston said the experience was very rewarding: "It was a very good entry into the retail market for us. We have concentrated on the wholesale side of things, but the events at the O2 showed that there is real potential in the retail market. We were there for the entire period of the Independence and Olympic celebrations and we were the only patty company there, so we got good branding exposure."
Jamaicans who came to the UK for the events described Port Royal as the most authentic patty they consumed during the period. While such comments bring a smile to Johnston's face, he is not resting on his laurels and his thoughts are once again turned to business growth and development.
"We are looking to do more of those events. We want to work more closely with caterers across the country and to be present at all the major events where patties are part of the menu."
The company now has a distribution network across the country which is a combination of its own fleet and third-party distributors.
Port Royal patties are sold in the major supermarket chains. It has a very strong presence in Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrison's. It made its mainstream debut in Asda in 2003, although it is no longer sold there.
Despite such premium shelf space, Johnston wants to penetrate the market more. "We want to get better distribution among the grass-roots retailers. We want to expand and we are looking for distributors in places like Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield and other areas in the north where we can create a 'patty hub' so that the product is available in good quantities. We are also seeking to grow the European market. We have a presence in Sweden, Germany and Holland, but we want to standardise our approach to Europe."
In commemoration of the 10th anniversary, the company is looking to roll out a few new exotic lines, including a lobster patty. There are big plans around the retail trade but for the moment, those will remain a secret.