Jamaican entrepreneur formalising frozen soups venture in New York
Yummy Jamaican Ventures LLC, a start-up run by Jamaican entrepreneur Heather Elliot-Whitehead, is targeting the frozen soups market in New York. Based in Brooklyn, the family-run operation produces its line of Yummy Jamaican Frozen Soups and its...
Yummy Jamaican Ventures LLC, a start-up run by Jamaican entrepreneur Heather Elliot-Whitehead, is targeting the frozen soups market in New York.
Based in Brooklyn, the family-run operation produces its line of Yummy Jamaican Frozen Soups and its Hearty Jamaican sub-brand via contract manufacturing, which means production of the soups is outsourced to a third party.
“We are primarily a CPG company that manufactures Caribbean flavoured frozen soups as a convenience meal,” said Elliott-Whitehead. CPG refers to the consumer packaged goods market.
The company has three products, but expects to bring others to market within a few months to a year.
Elliot-Whitehead’s background is in marketing, sales distribution and technology. The entrepreneur ran a PR agency for over 12 years, but it was shuttered during the pandemic. She is also the creator of Dancehall Divas, described as the first international dancehall Reality show now on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.
This particular project was self-funded, she said.
As company head for Yummy Jamaican, a role taken over from another family member, Elliott-Whitehead used the community-based Kiva crowdfunding platform to accelerate the initial seed funding. The platform supports unconventional projects ignored by traditional lenders and offer up to US$15,000 at zero interest.
“Yummy Jamaican has a lean team of only essential employees who focus on the e-commerce and day-to-day operations,” said Elliott-Whitehead. “With external manufacturing and the current D2C [direct to customer] model, we can run efficiently with a small number as we are now,” she said.
Yummy Jamaican Soups are made with “traditional Jamaican ingredients and proprietary seasonings”, said Elliott-Whitehead.
Although the creation of the Yummy Jamaican soups date back more than two decades, according to its website, the company itself is less than a year old in terms of legal structure, she said.
The preliminary planning and preparation to create a unique brand took well over two years, inclusive of R&D and product testing, she said.
The global soup market is valued at around US$18.6 billion as of 2022, said Elliott-Whitehead, citing recent intelligence data from EMR. That value is projected to rise at an annual rate of three per cent over five years, which would grow the market to US$22.2 billion by year 2028, she added.
“Our soup recipes have received positive feedback from consumers and we have identified a gap in the market for soups that use high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and ethnic flavours,” she said, adding that Yummy Jamaican is the first Jamaican-flavoured frozen soup brand in the United States.
The company head is a native of South, Trelawny and “all key stakeholders are Jamaicans”, she added, but neither the names of the principals involved in the business nor the size of its investments were disclosed.
“Yummy Jamaican at its core is a family business with a corporate outlook. It started in a Jamaican grandmother’s kitchen and organically and strategically became what it is today – a scalable and sustainable CPG business,” said Elliott-Whitehead.
“As a CPG brand, we provide a convenience meal option that aims to entice consumers who are drawn to a quick meal as well as diversity in their culinary offerings.”
The company, she said, is currently in the final stages of negotiating with major retailers to carry its most popular product, which is the red peas soup. It also sells beef and chicken soups.
As to the level of investments in the operation, Elliott-Whitehead said Yummy Jamaican Ventures does not share its financial data or investments, publicly.
“However, we can share that the bulk of our investment spending was on raw materials, packaging, regulatory and co-manufacturing costs. Some of our spices are proprietary and are made in Jamaica,” she added.
“We still have some time to go before we can confidently assess the company’s profitability. We are a start-up, so we are still in the growing phase.”
The start-up eventually intends to distribute its products across the continental United States.