Walkerswood Acquires Sorrel Chutney for $100,000


Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Limited, a pioneer in the export of jerk seasoning from Jamaica, has acquired Sorrel Chutney (original and spicy) and Sorrel Pepper Jelly from the Scientific Research Council (SRC), at a cost of $100,000 and $80,000 respectively.
The signing of the agreement took place on Tuesday (Sept. 30) at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), building in Kingston.
The SRC is an agency of the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology and has a mandate to develop products from local materials using effective and efficient technology.
In keeping with its mission, the SRC contributes to the growth of a viable agro-processing sub-sector. One of the agro products selected was Sorrel, because of its cultural significance, the employment creation potentials and its suitability for development of value-added products. Other value-added products that have been developed from local crops include: flour from yam and breadfruit; chips from banana, potato, plantain and breadfruit; condiments, preservatives, liqueurs, jams and jellies, utilizing ginger and pimento.
The production cycle begins at the Food Technology Institute, a division of SRC, where batch mixing is done to protect the formulation. Batch mixes are then sent to co-packers Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Limited, the partner involved in bottling and labeling.
Hope Gardens Jamaica classic sorrel chutney was the first new product to be developed and marketed in the new facility in the latter part of 1997, through SRC’s subsidiary, Marketech. The SRC launched the new product, Sorrel Chutney under the Hope Gardens, Jamaica label, in 1997 and it copped the Observer’s Table Talk Award for the year.
In April 1999, Hope Gardens’ Spicy Sorrel Chutney was entered in the Canadian Fine Food Show and was first runner up in the best Salsa and chutney category. It also featured in international food shows and has been exported to Europe, Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean.
From the onset, Walkerswood Caribbean, has been the SRC’s partner in the preparation and development of the line of products. Dr. Conrad Douglas, Chairman of the SRC Board of Directors, applauded the Walkerswood group for a job well done. “We are pleased that they are the ones taking this product from us and bringing it to its true potential, the product has enormous potential for export and also for local consumption,” Dr. Douglas said.
Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Audia Barnett, in her comments, pointed to the SRC’s involvement in the development of several of the signature lines of Walkerswood products and added that, “the SRC is well placed to foster the development of another Walkerswood success story”, as the relationship between the company and the Council has been mutually beneficial.
She said the success of the Walkerswood group, came as a result of a vision, which involved community, hard work, sweat, tears, and commitment. She said the building a $150 million factory was part of the Walkerswood dream.
Registered in 1978, the St. Ann-based company began operations as part of a rural community effort to create employment for its people. It now has a full time staff of over 100 people and is employee-owned.Continuing, she noted, “this transfer of technology .will be the first of many exciting prospects as we collaborate and co-operate with each other. The SRC will make a difference and we can only do this through alliances such as these, we salute Walkerswood. and we challenge other entrepreneurs both small and large to follow suit”.
Managing Director of Walkerswood Caribbean Foods Limited, Woodrow Mitchell, said that the group looked forward to an extended relationship with the SRC, not just with foods, but also with technology.
Explaining, he said the new factory would use biodigester technology, in a bid to keep all operations environmentally-friendly.
The biodigester system operates on the principles of anaerobic technology. This process treats wastewater without using oxygen. Many countries in Europe and Latin America utilise this technology, which treats wastewater in an environmentally-friendly manner, making it easier to be used for irrigation or its return to water bodies without polluting them. The process also generates organic fertiliser and biogas (a form of fuel) by allowing naturally occurring bacteria to break down solid waste.
The Managing Director stressed the group’s involvement in community development, pointing out that Walkerswood was into the business of creating wealth and employment for persons in the community.
He said that the “purchase of the sorrel formulation will give us one more opportunity to put more people to work.sorrel grows well in our area (St. Ann), our farmers will also be able to take advantage of one more product. As a country we have so much to offer the world in spices, jams and jellies, with the whole business of the world trade coming towards us like a steamroller. We as a nation will have to be nimble on our feet in terms of our R&D (Research and Development). The way things are going now we need to be able to have a concept of a product and take it to market within three months.”
Mr. Mitchell also told the group that the SRC was in a position to lead this process as it had the technology and equipment that the group did not have at present.
Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell who also spoke at the signing, said that he was pleased to have been the one to officially open the Food Institute Lab, and now be able to see one of its initial aims realised.
The Minister noted that, “the aim of that institute has been to do valuable research and development, but once we get them (products) to a stage where they can be adequately marketed, especially internationally, we wish for the private sector to take over and I think this has shown that this formula is working.”
Mr. Paulwell commended Walkerswood on its vision and effective use of strategies to become formidable competitors on the world market. He encouraged more entrepreneurs, especially those in the distribution and marketing sectors, to adopt the Walkerswood method by using local-based technologies available through the SRC.
“We complain about the challenges of globalisation, but we need to first look at the opportunities of globalisation for Jamaica and I believe in the whole matter of processed foods, agro-business Jamaica can be unbeatable, there is nowhere in the world you can taste the kinds of products that we produce, the flavours we produce, the varieties, than in Jamaica,” he said.
The Minister noted that the export of sorrel products had been generating valuable foreign exchange from the United States and Canada, as well as other Caribbean islands.
Minister Paulwell said that the SRC would be offering solutions to major housing projects using the biodigester technology. He said there were plans to use this technology in future government housing projects.

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