Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Springvale Enterprises, through its guava, sorrel, June plum, spicy mango and otaheiti apple flavours has taken value added in agricultural production to a whole new level, with its fruit-in-a-bottle offerings.
Then there is the company's range of June plum/lemon grass, mango/ginger and guava/rosemary fusions - pairing local fruits and herbs in a rich, nutritional and affordable blend that pleases the taste buds, while catching the eye.
The first set of fruit flavours speaks to the company's range of vinaigrettes, while the second lists the flavours for its salad dressing line, and the products are as tasty as the names suggest.
In less than two years on the market, Springvale Enterprises, through both product lines, has found favour with professionals who cook for a living, as well as people looking to add colour, taste and zest to their meals. And they are getting much more, as the woman behind the product, Managing Director Sandra McLeish explained:
"Right now, I'm very proud to say that it's 100 per cent Jamaican, the product itself - no artificial flavours, no artificial colours, gluten-free, no MSG. People who are lactose intolerant don't have a problem and the products are high in antioxidants, because our Jamaican fruits have a lot of antioxidants," she told Flair.
"There are all sorts of things that we haven't even yet discovered in guava, and we've been doing a lot of work with sorrel of late. Otaheiti apple is very good also high in antioxidants, June plum as well, and we have some other flavours in mind such as jackfruit and tamarind, which we are yet to explore."
McLeish and husband Richard owe their success to date in part to a team of dedicated workers; and while happy with the way things are going, she is nowhere near satisfied, just yet.
Said she: "What I want is not to have a little cottage industry. I'm in this seriously to make sure people know that when they are thinking about salad dressings they have a high-quality product comparable to anything they can get anywhere else in the world, and they should think Jamaican first.
"When I repatriated to Jamaica, I could have left and gone to North American but I chose to come back, because sometimes you have to leave home to really appreciate what you have, and so the philosophy of our company is, very strongly, 'Buy Jamaican'. Everything we do, if you look at the bottle, the logo that we redesigned, the label - all done by Jamaicans and very beautiful, everything done by graphic artists in Jamaica, everything was done by Jamaicans," she said.
The only thing not Jamaican is the bottle in which the products are packaged, and even though the company recently sent off its first small export batch, preparations are already being made for when the big overseas orders do come.
"We have not compromised in anything to do with the hygiene and the quality that Jamaica has established. All the Food and Drug Administration requirements including nutritional panel, the way they want it done in terms of the packaging, is ready. Phytosanitary issues, all of that has been taken care of because we don't want to compromise the quality and this is in keeping with the philosophy of company, the fact that it is an authentic Jamaican product," McLeish stressed.
There is no missing the salad dressing marketed under its OMD (Oh My Dressing) brand given the attractive bottle and labelling. It is described by the company as 'Your everything dressing', because of its versatility.
"You can use it as marinade for meats and your protein dishes. You can use it as a topping for food that's already prepared, and you can use it in a traditional way as a salad dressing. Also, you can actually add a little salsa to it if you want, add a little cheese, microwave it for two minutes and you have a dip."
While the response to both product lines has been overwhelming, for McLeish, there is a bittersweet taste to this success.
She told Food: "The unfortunate thing ... people tell me all the time it can't be Jamaican (because) it is too good. We have Jamaica written on the neck band; they still have to take it and look at it. They say, 'No man, it doesn't look like what we have associated in our mind with a Jamaican product'".
McLeish is hopeful that as the Springvale products take off, people will begin to associate the high standard of the packaging and product with the natural goodness of Brand Jamaica. After all, the company's tagline is 'Live Fruitfully', and if the fruits are out of season you should still be able to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits, by purchasing a bottle.