And the nominee in the category best (new) local product ... REICE’S CONFECTIONERY
Reice's Confectionery principal Shyana Hibbert presents her cookies (from left) The Bean (Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee & white chocolate), The Ginnal (Scotch bonnet sugar) and The Classic (chocolate chip). (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Principal: Shyana Reice Hibbert

E-mail: shayana.hibbert@gmail.com

History:

Reice's Confectionery was founded in 2020, just as borders were closing and while we were still settling down in Jamaica. Outside of family, we didn't know many people. So, armed with a picnic basket full of cookies, we set out to the beach to make new friends. We did and they in fact would eventually help launch us to where we are today. Alas, the pandemic struck shortly after finally making friends. But those cookie cravings remained, and the store-bought ones weren't cutting it. That's when we started to receive messages jokingly requesting our cookies for delivery, which was our "aha!" moment.

After doing some research, our signature brown bags started to make their way to houses across the island and, quite by accident, into the hands of some fantastic business owners who wanted to share our cookies with their customers.

Within nine months, we went from picnic baskets to shopping baskets and even launched a website to help keep up with our home delivery orders. We grew from midnight baking in the home kitchen to baking past midnight in a custom-built commercial kitchen. The past two years have flown by and we have a few new products on the apron strings, so we are excited to share what comes next!

Range of new products:

We are excited to launch our new product line: Paint Your Own (PYO) Cookies and Cookie Houses! We did a soft debut of our Summer Series during the Conu'co Market event this past May and received terrific feedback from children and adults alike. As we can customise them to any theme, they've quickly become a birthday goodie bag staple and the most requested cookie to share with classmates!

We have designs for every occasion, including the upcoming holidays! So, keep an eye out for our Diwali, Halloween, Día de Muertos, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas kits!

A notable mention must go to our pies. What started as simply bringing pies to a dinner party quickly became a demand for them to be made available to friends, family and our customers. With overwhelming support, we have a pre-order list that began in June for our signature Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Pumpkin Pie topped with our delicious pecan streusel. We'll let you in on our little secret: Jamaican pumpkins fresh from the market are superior!

Where the ingredients are sourced:

We must acknowledge that the lockdowns and curfews during the past two years allowed us to tap into a more creative side of baking and the development of flavours and new recipes, only using ingredients readily available to us, as those pesky supply chain issues were rough.

We believe it's important to shop and support small local farms and businesses whenever possible. While most of our ingredients are from Jamaica, we, unfortunately, haven't been able to find Jamaican-made gluten-free flour, butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips. But we are hopeful that with the boom of emerging talent in the coming years, we'll be able to source them here soon.

Where the products are currently being sold:

In Kingston, we hang out with our favourite family-friendly butcher at both locations of Butcher Block. Look for us at the pizza counter just down the road at Kaya Herb House and our Chilled Cookie Dough packs, also available gluten-free, are ready to take and bake at Jamaica Food and Drink Co's new Marketplace and Studio Kitchen. In Negril, Chill Pops displays our cookie stand alongside their gourmet paletas. Also, the perfect grab-and-go treat can be found at the busy counter at Rainforest Seafood Market in Montego Bay and Rum n Raisin in Montego Bay.

We can also be found online at our website, www.reicesconfectionery.com; we restock weekly and sell out quickly, but we try to accommodate all bespoke orders.

The story behind the packaging for the products:

We wanted to stand out by not blending into the many bright, bold, and busy packaging seen on displays everywhere. The simple brown and black tags are easy on the eyes, our top hat is quite unlike anything seen around, and using clear heat-sealed bags allows the cookies to be the centre of attention, as they should be. We want our customers to see exactly what they're getting every time.

We have moved to be more environmentally conscious, so most of our packaging now is either recyclable or biodegradable.

I made these products because:

At the crux of it, we were craving a good chocolate chip cookie, and the ones from the bakery at the supermarket weren't cutting it. They were dry, hard, and bland. So, we set out to perfect and redefine cookies in Jamaica. We began to modify the tried and true recipes we developed in the United States into recipes that worked with our climate. Once we perfected our base recipes, we experimented with fun flavour combinations.

To date, our favourites have been: the Bean, fresh ground Blue Mountain coffee with white chocolate chips, which tastes like a perfect cup of coffee. The Rudolph, white rum and raisin, found in our 12 Doughs of Christmas kit; and the Ginnal, our Scotch bonnet sugar cookie that takes your taste buds for a tricky ride.

My first breakthrough came when:

We did all deliveries by hand in the beginning, from Montego Bay to Kingston, nearly every week, which was bonkers.

On one such Kingston jaunt, we surprised a friend with some cookies at work. The jury is still out on whether they willingly shared the bag of cookies, but 30 minutes later, we got a message asking us to return to the store – their boss wanted to talk to us. Cue: instant anxiety! A few hours later, we walked back into the place that would offcially become the first retail store to carry our cookies.

Gregory Burrowes, the family-friendly butcher himself, asked how soon we could stock his store, Butcher Block. That is a day we won't likely forget. The drive over the mountain didn't seem so long that day; the validation of seeing our product on display in a beautiful shop gave us that extra dose of encouragement we didn't know we needed to keep moving forward.

The products became available to the public in:

In the summer of 2020. Reice's Confectionery went from providing strictly home deliveries, to stocking shops and cafés from Montego Bay to Kingston.

Our core customers are:

We started out receiving small bespoke orders. As we began to grow and supplying retailers, our customers could find their cookies without waiting a day or two for delivery. However, as our product line has grown to include BaKits, PYO Cookies, Pies and more, there has been a resurgence of our home deliveries as our entire line of products is not yet available in retail locations.

The response to the products has been:

In a single word, the response to our products has been overwhelming.

My products are successful because:

We believe consistency is key. There is nothing worse than craving something, only to be disappointed that it doesn't taste the way it did two days ago, two weeks ago, or even two years ago.

We strive to provide a quality product, that will taste the same no matter where or when you get them. With that mindset, we launched our Chilled Cookie Dough line, allowing people the luxury of having our cookies straight from the oven, perfect every time.

I plan to grow the business to become:

When one thinks of cookies, we want Reice's Confectionery to be the thought that immediately follows. As we continue to grow, we look forward to adding our cookie stands to more cafés, bistros, and establishments across the island. Our goal is to open our kitchen up to the public, allowing people to come in, enjoy a cup of coffee, and watch the magic happen.

My major challenge is:

One of our significant challenges is working with the weather. We pride ourselves in providing a quality product and believe consistency is key. People are often stunned when we explain how our proximity to the coastline and the humidity can affect specific bakes, and as we are in the rainy season now, the baking schedule is a labour of love. Over the years, and with many test batches, we've developed "rainy day" recipes for all our products and can adjust as we need to with the ever-changing weather.

A close second is finding enough hours in the day to develop and test each wild idea that pops into our heads.

This issue remains and managing the raw material inventory is: The struggle with inventory is a challenge we have accepted as part of the deal. We aim to plan a few months ahead of each season, allowing us to bulk-purchase raw ingredients that will be diffcult to source closer to the holidays and are mindful of shipping delays and such that some of our suppliers are also dealing with.

If I knew then what I know now:

I would tell myself to keep baking in faith: it's all in God's hands. It is encouraging and humbling to know that such simple ingredients, when mixed correctly, can bring a smile to someone's face, and we get the opportunity to be a part of that moment. Our motto is "Bake Today Happy" and that's the mindset we have each morning as we don our aprons, crank up the ovens and brew an extra bold pot of coffee.

Jamaicans should support my products because:

We have to acknowledge that support comes in many forms, not just buying our products. Our products are considered a luxury, just as that cup of drive-through coffee, people do not need us; they want us. It is humbling to know that with all the amazing talent out there, people choose us time and time again.

Word of mouth marketing, sharing our products with friends and even something as simple as a "like" on Instagram goes a long way.

Food Awards judge Professor Lloyd Waller (left) confers with fellow judge Adolph Raynor about the Reice's Confectionery packaging. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)
Food Awards judge Adolph Raynor taste-tests a Reice's Confectionery Bean cookie. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)
Food Awards judge Oneal Johnson tries his cookie with milk. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)
Food Awards judge Christopher Reckord examines the packaging of Reice's Confectionery cookies. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

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