BY INGRID BOWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
LOCAL manufacturers who showcased their products at the recently concluded Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) in St Ann are brimming with excitement at the prospect of inking deals with hoteliers seeking to source more home-grown products.
The second staging of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation-led Business Linkages Programme connected local producers of a range of goods and services to buyers and purchasing managers in the hotel sector. This year's programme -- a feature of JAPEX -- saw some 36 local suppliers displaying their goods and negotiating deals with more than 100 buyers from hotels, villas, gift shops, and attraction restaurants.
The goods on display at the three-day event included meats, beverages, baked goods, chemicals, cosmetics, sauces and spices, fresh produce, furniture, craft items, uniforms and other apparel, and ICT and related services.
Seprod was among the suppliers hoping to tap into a bigger share of the hotel market. Group Sales and Marketing Manager Marcia Kitson-Walters said the response from buyers was very encouraging.
"The objective was to get an opportunity to get our products and skills into the hotels and we are pleased with the interest and response," Kitson-Walters told the Jamaica Observer North East.
She explained that the hotels already use products similar to those the company manufactures, and as such a partnership with Seprod would provide them with increased options at more competitive prices. Additionally, she said the company had the personnel to provide technical services to the hotels with which they intend to do business.
"As it relates to the technical service we provide; if a hotel baker is baking a cake and it is not coming out with the right consistency, we will be on hand to give advice on the type of margarine or shortening that is needed," she said.
Manufacturer Virginia Dare was another Jamaican company which expressed satisfaction with the level of interest from hotel buyers as it sought to get more of its products into the sector.
"Right now we are not in the hotels in a big way, although we provide raw materials for big beverage and baking companies," Julette Fox Hosang said.
She explained that the company was hoping to ink some deals to supply concentrates for fruit drinks, hydration fluid for hotel staff, and items to be sold in hotel gift shops.
Ice cream manufacturers Crazy Jim, which already has a presence in some hotels, is working towards an even bigger share of the market.
"We have a huge percentage of hotel markets, but a lot of persons may not know they are having local ice cream," said Yolande Fullwood, sales and marketing manager.
She noted that the company is always networking for new prospects and was able to identify at least three prospective clients who are interested in the company's wide range of novelty items.
Ocho Rios-based Nahte Gems, makers of unique hand-made jewellery, was a popular booth on the JAPEX floor, not only with buyers, but with visitors who were staying at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel where the September 30 to October 2, trade show was staged.
"It has been a positive first time at the Business Linkages Programme. We have made links with hotels and gift shops and persons have been coming by and we have made a lot of sales," said sales and marketing officer Ashlei McFarlane.
She added: "Over the three days we've had to continually restock." Among her many patrons was State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams.
According to Mcfarlane, the one-year-old company has made strong business linkages with the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios and the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, among others.
Owner and designer Barbra McFarlane added: "It has been a success just being here. There has been really positive feedback."
Another newcomer to JAMPRO's Business Linkages Event is Bellina Jamaica Ltd (Wassi Art). Nicolette Carter, operations manager, explained that not only did the company sell a number of custom-made art and craft pieces on spot, but they also made important linkages.
"It has been fantastic," Carter said. "It has been a great portal to the wider world of marketing for a small business. It helps to create networks and links."
Carter explained that the Business Linkages event also helped to reconnect with previous buyers.
"We've had a couple of good meetings and spoken to people and renewed old interests," she said.
David Riley, chief executive officer at Interactive Voice Solutions, found his experience at the Business Linkages Programme to be interesting. "We are trying to get more into the hospitality area, which is why we're here, so it has been interesting," he said.
For Gary Wisdom, marketing officer at Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, the event was a boon in reconnecting with former clients.
"We have seen most of the people we came to see and gotten some kind of contact; and we met a few people and connected with businesses who for some reason or another we had lost contact with," he said.