Sauce company 876 Chef Champion’s export ambition
876 Chef Champion, a company formed in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by entrepreneur and Chef Julian Bartley, is expanding the local distribution of its signature Smoked Herring Dip and Gourmet Barbecue sauce while setting its sights on the international market for these products. 876 Chef Champion is a subsidiary of parent company ‘God Loves Jerk’.
During the COVID lockdowns, God Loves Jerk, created in 2019, was involved in delivering meals prepared by Bartley to customers around Kingston. However, due to the emergence of competitors using bikes to deliver a wide range of foods, there was a need to find a new niche.
“So we kind of had to pivot because the market was too wide,” the chef commented. “We started to manufacture sauces.”
The two sauces produced by Bartley, the Smoked Herring Dip and Gourmet Barbecue sauce, have been positively received by customers with the entrepreneur relating that the products were featured at “the Christmas in July trade show two years in a row and we did very well. Everybody loved it.”
The sauces have been quickly taken up by shops across Kingston including General Foods, Butcher Block, Things Jamaican, Fresh Approach and others as well as being available at the Pegasus Hotel and Norman Manley Airport. Customers are also able to purchase the products at Rainforest in Montego Bay.
The plan is to expand the range of sauces and have products available in 60 to 70 stores islandwide with improved distribution over the next year.
Buoyed by the reception of the products at Christmas in July where he was encouraged to export the products, Bartley revealed that he is “consulting with the JMEA [Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association] about exporting to England, USA and Canada.”
Bartley, who describes his sauces as niche items with potential in their uniqueness, is in the initial stages of contacting distributors in New York to sell his products in the coming months.
The 876 Chef Champion staff currently consists of himself and two family members. One helps with administrative tasks and bookkeeping, while the other assists with manufacturing and ensuring that the products meet health and Bureau of Standards regulations.
Social media platforms are used to market the sauces.
“We are on Instagram and Facebook,” he said. “It is doing very well. A lot of people call and ask for locations.”
Additionally, tastings are arranged inside stores to offer product samples.
“We just did a 40-store run and it went very well,” the entrepreneur affirmed.
The company also has a van which is wrapped with its branding and product imagery, playing a significant role in promotional efforts.
876 Chef Champion’s Smoked Herring Dip and Gourmet Barbecue sauce are offered in various sizes: two ounces, four ounces, and nine ounces. According to Bartley, the larger nine-ounce bottles are suitable for events like football games and other gatherings like parties and dinners.
“The nine-ounce spicy, that can be for football games at half-time or during the game, you might have some chips and dips,” Bartley suggested.
“It’s good for that and the barbecue sauce has Wray & Nephew rum in it and you can use it for smoked chicken and you can cook with it also. And there’s a regular spicy barbecue without the Wray & Nephew rum. You can use that the same way for wings, parties, football games, dinners and stuff like that.”
He also informed that the formulation process involved collaboration with the Scientific Research Council (SRC), in line with the required scientific approach to the development of the products.
Before venturing into God Loves Jerk and 876 Chef Champions, Bartley worked as a chef at various restaurants where he prepared a diverse range of dishes involving lobster, shrimp, wings, seafood, and more, honing his versatile culinary skills.
His intention is to continue operating both companies. God Loves Jerk will remain consistent in food service while his manufacturing agribusiness entity spreads its wings across Jamaica and ultimately over international markets.