Nature's Goodies Pre-Cooked Green Plantains

Counting Down To The 20th Staging Of The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thursday, May 03, 2018

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I made the Nature's Goodies Jamaica Pressed Plantains because... we import too many things that we can grow here in Jamaica, including pressed plantains (tostones). I have been exposed to farming and farmers sometimes have an abundance of fruits and vegetables that we just cannot sell as the market is flooded and we have no means of storing or converting it into value-added products, as it requires the infrastructure, knowledge and support.

My major challenge is... having enough demand to operate at full capacity. Our business could be profitable with better business efficiencies driven by volumes, as well as getting technical and financial assistance to make our processes more automated. We need food service customers and /or a local distributor to choose to buy local versus importing the products as our prices are competitive and our products are more consistent and made fresh daily. We also would love to gain customers outside of Jamaica and therefore we are open to finding a distributor to assist us.

This issue remains, and managing the raw material inventory is... key and therefore having a good relationship with my farmers is so important. My farmers are an extension of my family, and they have seen such value in our partnership in having a business purchase their plantains weekly. We assess growth plans as collectively we add more acreage to our farms to satisfy anticipated demand, they encourage me and give me new product ideas as we prepare to launch our gluten-free flours from plantains, sweet potatoes and cassava this May.

Our Nature's Goodies Pressed Plantain became available... at General Foods and the Lee's chain in August 2017 and Progressive Stores shortly thereafter. We just started distribution within the Hi-Lo chain and hope to get the MegaMart chain on board soon.

The response to the products has been... awesome! People are happy that they have green plantains that are conveniently packaged, naturally pre-peeled and pressed, gluten-free and easy to prepare. We have customers who purchase it to take or send to their relatives abroad, and I felt so honoured when people came up to us at the recent JMA expo and said they had bought, and commended my team and me for creating such a convenient, delicious product. We served over 800 samples and one customer, Samuel, who was at the expo with his daughter, said “I have three packs in my fridge, my daughter loves it. We eat it almost every day for breakfast or a quick snack.”

Our core customers are... the major supermarkets and a few restaurants. Patrick Lee, owner of Lee's Food Fair on Red Hills Road, endorsed our product and said, “My customers have no complaints. We use it proudly in our deli and sell it our stores.” We reached another milestone when, after extensive testing, we got our first order from the Fish Pot restaurant chain this week.

I plan to grow the business to become... one of the major procurers and producers of fresh and processed foods made from nature that is healthy and delicious. Our goal is to gain more volume with additional distribution. We hope that we can prove that we are a better alternative to imported pressed green plantains and ripe plantains in the restaurants, hotels, larger restaurant chains and a major retailer in Kingston. Their volume would really propel our business.

My first breakthrough came... when General Foods and Lee's supermarkets said they would be willing to try it. They made a purchase and then their customers called to say they had tried it and loved it. It gave me the confidence to introduce it to the Progressive Group and Hi-Lo chain stores and to focus on distribution, expansion and improving our production.

Jamaicans should support my product because... it is local, natural, has no preservatives, no additives and is a healthier food option that is manufactured in a safe, Bureau of Standards-approved facility. It is versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and as a side at dinner. It is great with or without any form of meat, fish or your favourite savoury or sweet condiment. Purchase of our plantains helps us to support our other local farmers and provide jobs for six persons and hopefully two more before the end of the year.

My product is successful because... our local supermarkets were willing to take a chance and purchase our plantains. God has really blessed our business. The stores were open to supporting a locally made product and a budding, passionate entrepreneur.

The Development Bank of Jamaica provided us with a grant that allowed us to garner the services of the JBDC and BSJ, whose experienced team tested and gave us solid advice as to how to improve the product, ideas for facility and packaging, and we listened. The consumers called us and provided general feedback, but mostly commendations. They said that it tastes like freshly made plantains, is healthy and so convenient to prepare any time of day for their families or for an event.

Most importantly, the product is a success because I have an awesome group of farmers, family, friends and staff that supports and encourages me and puts our secret ingredient 'love” into every packet.

If I knew then what I know now... I would have tried to produce this commercially 10 years ago! On a serious note, everything in its own time; mistakes are just a part of the journey and the story I hope to share with my grandchildren about how we became a BIG brand that is globally distributed. I am looking forward to an exciting future for Nature's Goodies Jamaica.




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