Sweetie Confectionery gets toehold in New York  

CEO eyes other states, Caribbean

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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Local start-up Sweetie Confectionery has inked a deal with United States distribution company Eve Sales.

The partnership means that Sweetie Confectionery will have its Caribbean flavoured hard candies on shelves across the Bronx — the northern-most borough of New York City, with a market that is up to four times the size of the local market.


CEO of the company, Patria-Kaye Aarons is now eyeing other densely Jamaican populated US markets including Florida, Atlanta in Georgia and Connecticut through the partnership.


Aarons also disclosed that plans are underway to secure distribution deals within the Caribbean.


"We may call it June plum in Jamaica, and they call it a golden apple in the Eastern Caribbean; naseberry in Jamaica is called sapodilla in Trinidad. The point is we all enjoy the same fruits [and] the intention is for Sweetie to fill a void."


New York marks the third location in which the one-year-old company has expanded its footprint after solidifying deals in the United Kingdom and the US Virgin Islands. Earlier this year, Aarons also expanded her product line to include paradise plum, which she says has more than doubled total sales.


President of Eve Sales Stuart Gale noted that the 50-year-old business has been importing quality nostalgic food brands that have been a part of Caribbean family traditions for generations. He added that Eve Sales is committed to maintaining the accessibility of these great products and is happy to add Sweetie to the line of iconic Jamaican brands it already offers.


"When I first decided to explore the idea of starting Sweetie, I did preliminary costings for production. The slide in the Jamaican dollar has caused those projections to almost double; and the need to earn foreign currency was made all too clear," Aarons noted in a release to the public.


"The success or even survival of Sweetie will have to depend not only on the three million Jamaicans that live in Jamaica, but the also the potential market of six million [Jamaicans] living outside the shores."


Aarons noted that she hopes to secure 60 per cent of profits in exportation by 2020 and is hinging on the diaspora’s "umbilical link to home".


"I’m counting on the fact that Jamaicans who live away from home crave the tastes of home. Truth is, most do not have access to the actual fruits themselves on a regular basis, or the fruits may not be in season. Sweetie will allow people to enjoy their favourite Caribbean fruit flavours wherever they are, whenever they want," she said.


Sweetie is currently available in six flavours of the island – mango, June plum, pomegranate, jackfruit, paradise plum and guava. The most recent product line is paradise plum, a popular sweet and sour-flavoured candy which had disappeared from shelves in recent years.


The CEO, who is a former employee of GraceKennedy Company Limited, got the idea of manufacturing hard candy after she was approached by her god-daughter who couldn’t identify with the fruits of some flavoured hard candy.


Aarons, who was a Jamaica Observer Mogul in the Making earlier this year went on to an accelerator training programme with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, where she was assisted in drafting a bankable business plan and funding programmes to kick-start her business.


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