Derrimon Trading hosted recent winners of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, in the Best New Local Products category, Thursday last, in the boardroom of its Marcus Garvey Drive HQ.
In attendance were Oji Jaja, culinary artiste and founder of Ashebre Gourmet Condiments; Annette Salmon, marketing consultant along with Rayal Young and Richard Josephs co-managing directors of Manchester Hills Sauces; and Shantal Richards, managing director of CrEATe, representing Chef Garfield Seivwright who engaged Derrimon Trading Limited Chairman and CEO Derrick Cotterell and Group CFO Ian Kelly, as well as key members of the company's C-suite.
Manchester Hills Sauces and CrEATe had tied for top spot in the recently concluded Food Awards, while Jaja was the 2022 recipient.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for one-on-one discourse with the executives of a company that has moved from a single shipping container to a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate was not lost on the emerging entrepreneurs. From product distribution (including product branding, marketing strategies, making a mark on the international stage, and the importance of teamwork) this was a masterclass.
Cotterell emphasised the importance of creating a strong and unified brand identity, accepting criticism, and building relationships. "Nobody ever gets their first run right! Don't get defensive over constructive criticism. We here at Derrimon Trading have individuals with 40 and 25 years' of experience and [yet] there are lessons to be learnt each day.
"We want to give you valuable advice from now [the start of your journey]. I won't say that we will always be right, but we can share our experience... and be it local or overseas... open our networks."
Cotterell continued, "Winning the category of best new product is one thing, but planning and putting in the work is a different thing. First, always remember that not everything in life is a competition; in fact, most times the people who don't win eventually move on to doing great things. Always put relationships first, and focus on building genuine relationships with both your suppliers and consumers. The team here at Derrimon can tell you that we value all our relationships and once we make a promise, we are committed to it."
Cotterell, in introducing his team, notably Sheldon Simpson, managing director; Ian Kelly, group CFO; Oral Richards, head of retail and procurement; Kim Lee, chief marketing officer; and John Paik, general manager, Food Savers, New York, who joined online via Zoom, encouraged the young entrepreneurs to schedule meetings with these experienced professionals.
One such professional ready to assist was Oral Richards, with over 25 years of experience in the product distribution business and lauded by the CEO as one of the best in the field. "It's all about positioning yourself and thinking about what can make your brand stand out," he shared.
"When the team here at Derrimon visits trade shows we collect tons of flyers and then forget about it the next day. The product only truly speaks for itself when it's on the shelf alongside all the others. The journey to success in product distribution is paved with challenges and opportunities. It's crucial to have a clear vision, a well-defined strategy, and the right team," added Cotterell.
The CEO, in underscoring product differentiation and affording consumers a premium product at an affordable price, presented Delect's canned coconut milk and coconut powder. "The Delect coconut product contains 70 per cent natural milk, is a luxury product but competitively priced," he pointed out.
Cotterell also mentioned that local food producers who use non-dairy milk have gravitated towards the product. This not only underscores the quality of the company's standard but also the importance of effective branding and labelling. The coconut milk products display what Cotterell described as a "clean label" (having precise ingredient listings).
The gathering at Derrimon HQ was not just a celebration of past accomplishments but also a forward-looking, educational experience for the winners. The knowledge, experience, and guidance provided by Derrimon's leadership will undoubtedly assist these culinary entrepreneurs in making their mark on the international stage.
Derrimon in its quest via the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards to support, develop and promote innovative products will undoubtedly elevate the narrative around Jamaican culinary excellence.
Photos: Garfield Robinson