Spur Tree Spices sends first shipment to UK

By Julian Richardson

Friday, February 17, 2012

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Spur Tree Spices this week shipped its first container of products to the UK, marking the gourmet condiments company's entrance into the second biggest Jamaican diaspora market.

The shipment included Spur Tree's 12 different sauces and spices. Among them are the jerk, curry, pepper jelly and the Jamaica Observer Food Awards winning oxtail seasoning.

The products will be distributed throughout the UK by National Baking Company's distribution arm in the European country. Spur Tree is a member of National's 'Bold Ones - Champion Entrepreneurs', created in 2010 by National boss Gary "Butch" Hendrickson to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship by celebrating new Jamaican businesses that use indigenous material and have created employment for at least five persons.

"To be able to link up with a company like National Baking Company is tremendous," said Spur Tree director Mohan Jagnarine, speaking with Caribbean Business Report as the company loaded the UK-bound container at its 5,000 square-foot leased factory on Woodglen Drive in Kingston. The plant has the capacity to produce up to 50,000 pounds of jerk weekly.

"It is a strategic partnership... National is able to get us in the market and we will go and support the product," said Jagnarine.

He expressed confidence that Spur Tree products will perform well in the UK market, despite the country currently facing significant economic challenges and in the past proving difficult for some Jamaican products to crack.
"We are very confident about the UK market, which we think may even be bigger for us than the US," he said.

Hendrikson admitted that the UK market is challenging, but shared Jagnarine's optimism in a European nation consisting of a five million West Indian Diaspora and their descendants.

"I don't think any market is good for you right now, which is all the more reason why you need to go in there now, catch it at the bottom, work and build it back up," Hendrickson reasoned.

Hendrickson said the rationale behind National's distribution deal with Spur Tree is in line with that of the 'Bold Ones' initiative.

"It's along the same thought process that said 'lets go and help these small companies, give them exposure and get them recognised'," he explained.

Spur Tree is an export-oriented company which already has markets in the US and Trinidad & Tobago. It was founded six years ago by Jagnarine, who came up with the idea whilst operating a restaurant -- Windies Grill -- in Mandeville with friend, West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Jagnarine is originally from Guyana but has lived in Jamaica for over 30 years. His business partner in Spur Tree is Dennis Hawkins.

Spur Tree has established strong relationships with a number of small and medium sized farmers in rural Jamaica, from whom the company sources raw materials such as peppers , pimentos, escallion and thyme. One red pepper supplier, Johnnie Woodburn, at Spur Tree's factory to see the company load its first container bound for the UK, said he is motivated by the development.

"It is definitely great," said Woodburn, who runs an eight-acre farm in Bogwalk, St Catherine. "It provides an avenue for business and allows you to feel confident about what you are doing, your ability to expand and diversify."

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