Sweetie Confectionery

From the rock to the region

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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CANDY manufacturer Patria-Kaye Aarons already plans on exporting her locally made sweeties into the Caribbean region after just six months into production.


In fact, the young entrepreneur is also looking to expand her hard candy product line to include jujus, toffees and lollipops, but come next year, Aarons will be introducing a sour line of candies.


"We have already mastered the art of making hard candies, so we want to introduce new flavours to the market," Aarons told the Jamaica Observer. "As for exporting, most of the Caribbean countries enjoy the same flavours that we enjoy here in Jamaica, so we are looking strategically at where to target."


Aarons recently appointed a local distributor to introduce her candy brand -- Sweetie Confectionery -- islandwide, and is now actively seeking a distributor to service select Caribbean markets.


"Since contracting Frozen Delights to distribute my products, I have begun to see an increase in Sweetie's footprint," she told the Business Observer. "Accessibility of Sweetie will make or break its success. Profit margins on candy are low so the survival of the business will depend heavily on selling big volumes. If people can't find it, they can't buy it, so good distribution is crucial."


The idea of manufacturing hard candy started after Aarons was approached by her god-daughter who couldn't identify with the fruits of some flavoured hard candy.


"She asked, Auntie, what is blue raspberry? And I wondered to myself where are the candies in the flavours that we are accustomed to. And so I started thinking of how I could manufacture sweetie using Caribbean fruits," she said.


Currently, Sweetie Confectionery manufactures Caribbean-flavoured confectionery including jackfruit, mango, guava, pomegranate and june plum. The flavours are exclusively developed for Sweetie Confectionery by the Scientific Research Council and are manufactured in Kingston using oils extracted from the best Caribbean fruits, according to Aarons.


"Sweetie is co-packed at the island's only commercial confectionery manufacturing facility, Miel, which has been in operation since 1988 and is distributed to various wholesale and retail channels," she stated.


Sweetie products can currenlty be found in more than 20 locations, mainly in Kingston including the Progressive Group, Hi-Lo, Fontana pharmacies and retail shops.


Prior to the launch of Sweetie Confectionery, Aarons was employed as sponsorship and communications manager at GraceKennedy. She also served nine years at Digicel as public relations manager.


"I left a promising marketing career in corporate Jamaica to start my business. People thought I was nuts, I was giving up my job to go into an industry I knew nothing about. But while I worked at GraceKennedy I had great experience and exposure in both the food and financial services sides of the business," she said.


Like many other small businesses, Aarons had to fund the business model from her pension and personal savings. She noted that without the help of Sweetie manufacturer, Miel, she would not have been in business today.


"Traditionally, you think of your competitor as your enemy. In my case, I didn't have the outlay to purchase my own factory, so I now co-pack at Miel," she said.


"We don't make competing products; I make fruit candies and he makes mints and ginger logs and paradise plums. I get commercial factory facilities and he gets additional revenue. It works. And I encourage Jamaican business competitors to contemplate ways you perhaps can collaborate for the good of both your businesses," Aarons added.


She has also partnered with the University of the West Indies in contracting interns on a three-month basis to reduce expenditure and has begun to pitch her business to potential angel investors through the Branson Centre Caribbean and has recently launched a crowd funding campaign on GoFundMe.


Aarons is now in the process of registering her business with the Jamaica Manufacturing Association.


 


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