Buy Jamaican, Build Jamaica

Buy Jamaican, Build Jamaica

Emma Sharp Dalton-Brown

Thursday, August 08, 2013

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It's not difficult to spot imported products on the shelves of Jamaican shops. We know the difference between our brands and those of other countries. If it is something we don't recognise, we may also assume (wrongly in some instances) that the classier-looking packaging is from abroad. While in the past this was the case, Jamaica is proving that we too can provide the world with items that can stand up against competitors.

Last Tuesday, at the launch of Springvale's OMD! (Oh My Dressing) Salad Dressings, held at the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, we were reminded of the quality that comes out of our nation. While Springvale presented its vinaigrettes to the Jamaica Observer Food Awards judges a few months ago and were nominated in the category Best New Food Item, the addition of this new line solidifies its status in our supermarkets.

Having done research on the subject, Imega Breese McNab, executive director at the JMA, opened the launch with a synopsis of the history of salad dressings. From ancient times, when the Chinese started using soy sauce to season their meals, and the Egyptians began mixing oil, vinegar and spices, to some 200 years ago when it is said that mayonnaise was first seen on the tables of French noblemen, salad dressings have become a staple in people's pantries. According to McNab, the store-bought versions have been around for about 100 years, which means that for as long as any Jamaican can remember spotting the first salad dressing in a supermarket here, it has always been an imported one.

The deputy president of the JMA, Metry Seaga, commended Springvale for being "the first local manufacturer to produce a line of salad dressings and vinaigrettes," which shows that our manufacturers "are diversifying and innovating to meet consumer demands". Two years ago, Jamaica imported a whopping "US$6.8 million worth of sauces and preparations, mixed condiments and mixed seasonings", Seaga informed us, so the JMA sees a wide window "for import substitution and investment".

To boot, if we make a decision to maintain our loyalty to Jamaican products, it will create jobs, and in turn give rise to the wealth that is essential for economic growth. "The production of Springvale products alone," Seaga went on, "is creating jobs for farmers in Portland." Of course, local manufacturers have to deal with the costs of energy, security and input, which is a really hard feat when budgets are so limited. The JMA, insists their deputy president, "is committed to providing the necessary value-added services, to increase the visibility of Jamaican-made products." In fact, he told Thursday Life that at every JMA meeting Michelle Smith, the managing director of Chocolate Dreams, brings a tray of her chocolates for the attendees. "If people like her and Sandra McLeish, managing director of Springvale, continue to use the JMA as a vehicle, we can get the word out there," he concluded.

McLeish said that Springvale's philosophy is to ensure they use solely Jamaican ingredients wherever possible, and to replace imported products. The company's slogan, "Live Fruitfully," McLeish urged, "directs our actions and encourages us to operate by our ethos of using Jamaican inputs." In fact, to keep up with provisions needed for its vinaigrettes and dressings, Springvale "has partnered with such entities as Jamaica Exotic Fruits and Essences Company Ltd (JEFE), which has provided us with a steady supply of our locally sourced purées and flavours," she continued. The company even did market testing on Jamaicans, using graduates and staff at the Ebony Park Heart Academy to taste and give their feedback. Springvale wants the public to judge its lines of vinaigrettes and dressings, and become its evangelists if they approve of the quality.

McLeish concluded by thanking local supermarkets Hi-Lo, Progressive, MegaMart, Lee's Food Fair, and Xxtra for their continued support, and invited the guests to indulge in the light lunch feast that Chef Shea Stewart had prepared, using Springvale OMD! Salad Dressings. Well received by those around the table, one was reassured that Jamaican products are absolutely not inferior to imported brands, and that we must buy Jamaican to build Jamaica.

Email: or follow me on Twitter: @JamaicaEmma


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