Jamaican patty maker wins UK award
Ask any visitor to Jamaica what they consider the highlights of the country and you are mostly likely to be told the "food", followed closely by the "people".
Tasty Jamaican jerk chicken and steaming hot patties are just a few of the delights that get rave reviews and, like our athletes, Jamaican cuisine and businesses in the Diaspora have attracted much attention on the international scene.
One such example, UK-based Cleone Foods, operators of Island Delight patties, was recently awarded the Santander Responsible Small Business of the Year award.
The award, which is presented by the Business in the Community charity, in association with the Financial Times, is given to successful companies with demonstrated comittment to corporate social responsiblity.
Cleone Foods has been lauded for their adoption of biodegradable, home compostable flow wrap on their productions and their reduction of company waste and energy efficiency.
"When I came over to the UK as a teenager, I was surprised to find how difficult it was to buy a patty," said Wade Lyn, the Clarendon-born managing director, explaining his inspiration for starting the company.
"I decided I wanted to help bring the vibrant Caribbean tastes and flavours I grew up with to the British market" added Lyn, the son of former parliamentarian George Lyn.
The company began operation in 1989 in Hockney, Birmingham with a £50, 000 investment.
Twenty-three years later, Cleone Foods now commands 70 per cent of the patty industry in the UK, producing 100,00 patties per week and supplying some of the region's largest supermarket chains, such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrison.
While a recent £1. 2 million infrastructural upgrade to the plant, including a new production line and cookers, were a financial challenge, Lyn said he is encouraged by the fact that the project increased the company's production capacity to 500,000 patties a week.
Cleone Foods prides itself in supplying authentic Jamaican taste to its consumers but laments the inconsistent supply of Jamaican escallion, a chief ingredient in its savoury patties and sauces.
Lyn urges local producers to expand their markets and capitalize on the ready niche.
Regular "blind taste tests" of its products and those produced by companies in Jamaica help to ensure the authenticity of the Caribbean flavour, he said.
Lyn also believes that his predominantly Afro-Caribbean staff is essential to success of his company and the authentic taste of its products.
A close knit, "family focused" view is also a major driver of the company's production.
"When employees have family related problems they are not as productive, you can have several jobs but only one family," said the Cleone Foods boss.
The company operates on a single shift from 9:30am to 3:00pm, which facilitates employees with school-age children.
Training and development are also emphasized, said Lyn, as a means of ensuring the retention of experienced staff and product quality.
Cleone Foods currently mentors smaller companies, providing assistance with the distribution of their productions through Cleone's listing with the large supermarket chains.
The patty maker also won the 2009 Business in the Community award for "impact on society" by a small company.