Stuck in a jam

Belcour exits US exports to preserve local market

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaoberver.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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Two years after aggressively targeting the US market, local manufacturer Belcour (Blue Mountain) Preserves Limited says it will refocus efforts on building its brand in the local market.

What started out as a hobby for proprietors Robin and Michael Lumsden in preparing jams, hot sauces and chutneys for neighbours and friends quickly developed into a business model in 2010.

A year later the company was supplying scores of the gourmet condiments infused with Blue Mountain honey to segments of the local market and in 2012 the Lumsdens decided to move their processing from the Scientific Research Council (SRC) Pilot Plant for incubating food processing businesses to St Ann-based Walkerswood Caribbean Foods factory in a bid to take on the international market.

“We were with a West Indian distributor and what we found was, because we are a gourmet line, our prices didn't fit into that channel well and also, we are really not a famous Jamaican brand as yet,” Michael Lumsden told the Jamaica Observer during Expo Jamaica 2018.

He added that the company was also working with a specialty distributor out of Miami which focused on internet sales, but shortly after it changed its business model and discontinued Belcour Preserves product line.

“As a result we are back into the local market looking again at how we can grow into the export side. We are looking at Cayman, the Caribbean Islands, but for this year I'm going to focus a lot on the local market because I think we have the opportunity to grow,” he said.

Portmore a big target

Today, Belcour Preserves manufactures 10 products from its 3,000-square foot facility in Walkerswood, St Ann; the Blue Mountain honey, pineapple preserves, five fruit marmalades, guava preserves, honey and ginger sauces, pepper sauces honey mustard pepper sauces, honey jerk pepper sauces, tomato, pepper jam and sorrel chutneys.

Lumsden described the customer favourites as the honey jerk pepper sauce, pepper jam and guava preserve.

Today, the company shelves its products in Shoppers Fair and Progressive Supermarkets in Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. However, Lumsden wants to expand Belcour Preserves' footprint into Savanna-La-Mar; Mandeville; Portmore and Spanish Town.

With a retail price range of $250 to $300 per bottle, Belcour's products are in the premium specialty food market. The condiments — which do not use artificial preservatives — have a shelf life of two years. Belcour's use of all-natural produce is intended to capitalise on the trend towards healthier lifestyles.

“Primarily, we want to go deeper into the supermarkets. Over the last few years a lot of supermarkets have opened, and some have been redeveloped so that presents an opportunity for us to go in and promote to the consumers. Portmore is a big target for us this year, so we are going to be targeting the Progressive stores and MegaMart,” he told the Business Observer.

Belcour Preserves is also looking to secure market space in the restaurant industry as well as the hotel and gift markets.

“We have some packaging tweaks that we are going to do to satisfy those market requirements, but we are at that stage of our business where we are ready to take things to the next step,” the business owner continued.

The company currently employs three full-time staff members and eight people on a contractual basis.

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