Heart and Sole: Regional Footwear Makers Aim to Impress at UK’s ‘Autumn Fair’

Christmas is coming and retailers around the world are getting ready for the so-called ‘Golden Quarter’ between October and December when sales traditionally spike.

This is an important time for shops everywhere and usually involves an intense amount of preparation for the rush, which includes attending trade shows and finding products that purchasing agents hope their customers will love.

In the UK, one of the biggest retail tradeshows is held just before the busy festive season gets into full swing. ‘Autumn Fair’ is a four-day event in Birmingham from 4-7 September that is billed as “a vibrant hub where ideas flourish and community, connection, and collaboration thrive.”

Autumn Fair has four distinct buying destinations – Home, Gift, Moda (fashion) and Design & Source – where over 600 exhibitors are hoping to attract the attention of leading buyers and retailers scouting for exceptional and unusual products to ‘wow’ their customers.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency and the European Union are supporting 10 regional womenswear, jewellery, and shoe designers who are travelling to the UK to take part in this important industry event.

The attendees include three established footwear brands, Catori’s Barbados, FETE-ish from St Lucia, and Haiti’s SANDILOU.

Catori’s Barbados was started by husband-and-wife team, Carson and Twena Cumberbatch, and is named after their two daughters Cara and Tori.

Carson has been repairing shoes and bags for almost 30 years and opened his own heel bar and shoe repair shop in Barbados’ capital Bridgetown in 2003.

A few years later, when Carson needed a pair of sandals, he decided to design and handmake a pair from scratch, and from there his business model expanded to include bespoke shoes for men and women.  

Since then, Carson has significantly advanced his repertoire and now also designs and crafts a full range of leather accessories including belts, purses, bags, wallets, passport holders, cell phone cases, and business portfolios.

Carson’s years of repairing shoes and bags have given him invaluable insight into what it takes to construct a product that will last, especially in the tropics, where the heat often causes inferior materials to quickly peel and fall apart.

He utilises hardwearing materials like burlap and denim to enhance longevity, with bamboo handles for the bags and stitched, brass ring details on the shoes.

Carson also credits additional training on shoe manufacturing and bag making which he underwent in Colombia, for improving his craft, and giving him the skills to make leather goods that are chic and classy with a Caribbean touch.

Fete-ish is a customised footwear company founded in 2019 by self-taught St Lucian entrepreneur Kayle Cassius.

Kayle started designing and making leather sandals as a side hustle but soon turned it into a fully-fledged business when interest in her made-to-order shoes steadily grew beyond just her close family and friends.

Fete-ish is different from mass produced or large-scale manufacturers because Kayle works collaboratively with her customers to design sandals that reflect their personality, colour preferences, and personal style.

She says her brand represents “uniqueness, individuality, beauty and strength”, and these values influence every pair of sandals she creates along with an “artsy and whimsical” feel which is 100% inspired by the charms of Caribbean life.

As a lover of shoes herself, Kayle is particularly proud of the fact that her shoes are built to last, and because of that, as well as her eye for every detail and willingness to please the customer, she has had many repeat orders.

Fete-ish has been featured in Elle Magazine, LIAT airline’s in-flight magazine Caribbean Beat, Tropical Traveller, and several other regional publications and Kayle plans to turn her brand into a global household name.

Sandilou is a passion project for Haitian businesswoman Sandra Russo. She started the business with her husband Fred in 2012, and currently works alongside a team of 10 artists to bring her designs to life.

Primarily focused on resort wear, soft furnishings, beach towels. and flip flops, Sandilou offers hand-painted products which express the unrestricted Caribbean ‘joie de vivre’ and love for everything colourful and exuberant.

All Sandilou’s designs start off as a sketch on a blank fabric like rayon, cotton, and linen, then the artist paints freehand using dyes, silkscreen, and paint directly onto the ‘canvas’ and the item takes shape naturally.

Every item is different depending on who painted it. Some artists prefer abstract or organic concepts, while others might use folk and traditional Haitian imagery for inspiration, and a local team of female seamstresses sometimes add appliques and embroidery.

Sandra explains: “We are not a fashion house with collections. We produce easy-wear, just like the Caribbean – we are happy and easy, we’re a lifestyle that’s a visual feast, effortless, with little stress and in no hurry to change what is comfortable.

“We still enjoy moments with nature, friends, family (close and extended) and have fun at carnival, where time has another rhythm and light makes everything beautiful.”

Caribbean Jewellery Designers Ready to Dazzle at Top UK Trade Fair

Four Caribbean jewellery designers will be taking their collections to Birmingham in September as they attend leading UK tradeshow ‘Autumn Fair’.

Jamaica’s Rêve Jewellery & Accessories, St Lucia’s Designs by Nadia, Trinidad and Tobago’s AYA STYLER, and Dominica’s Gisselle Mancebo Jewelry, are all exhibiting at the top retail event with the support of the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the European Union.

Autumn Fair will give these Caribbean creatives a chance to present their individual brand story, whilst interacting with major buyers and retailers from around the world who are looking for the next big thing in jewellery.

Rêve Jewellery & Accessories will be sharing its authentically unique, trailblazing, and contemporary line of couture jewellery, which merges elements of goldsmithing techniques and the legacy of craft.

Founded in 2006 by sibling entrepreneurs, Teasea and Duane Bennett, Rêve is an award-winning company based in Jamaica which offers ready-to-wear and custom-made jewellery.

Rêve’s flagship store, which opened in Kingston in 2009, is not only a place where you can find their revolutionary, handmade jewellery line, but also provides a bricks and mortar location for other Jamaican and regional accessories makers to sell their clothing, bags, and footwear.

Rêve’s co-founder Duane is a highly qualified and skilled goldsmith who is known as a trendsetter in his field. He is also currently a guest professor at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where he is training the next generation of Caribbean jewellery designers.

Over the past decade, Rêve has built a reputation for excellence and developed a strong and trusted brand image, based on exceptional customer service. It is a registered and trademarked company (including industrial) and currently exports to the Caribbean, US, Canada, UK, Germany, and France.

Teasea and Duane are ambitious and aim to create a long-lasting legacy business. They plan to elevate Rêve into a globally recognised Caribbean jewellery brand that is known for high quality, bespoke, and original designs.

Caribbean jewellery designer Nadia Jabour will also be attending the Autumn Fair to highlight her brand ‘Designs by Nadia’. Originally from Guyana, Nadia began designing jewellery from her home in Canada in 2007 and continued producing her pieces after relocating to St Lucia in 2010.

Designs by Nadia offers one-of-a-kind necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, created from indigenous and naturally occurring material such as fish scales, seeds, wood, sea glass, stones, leather, and metals. Most of the material used in Nadia’s jewellery is sourced from islands around the region.

Nadia initially built her brand through hosting pop-up events around St Lucia and at local hotels. She also created a website to showcase her creations and grew her social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. Nadia’s jewellery has been sold to customers in Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Canada, the US, and the UK.

‘Designs by Nadia’ is available at Nadia’s shop (Island Mix) in St Lucia where buyers can also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her production process. Two local hotels also offer Nadia’s jewellery to international guests.

Nadia says her jewellery attracts a varied clientele who are looking for bold statement pieces to complement their outfits, as well as those who are fascinated by the uniqueness of the designs, and the material they are constructed from, especially the fish scale selection.

The AYA STYLER (aka AYA) accessories brand originates from Trinidad and Tobago. Aya designs and makes retail-ready earrings, necklaces, anklets, and bracelets from high quality materials such as cultured pearls, wood, shells, rose quartz, and jade.

AYA STYLER offer clients a timeless feel by fusing classic, vintage looks with international and island trends. The brand’s Caribbean influence can be seen throughout its product range in the textures and colours, as well as in its marketing and promotion material, which utilises paradisical imagery.

As a female-led business, AYA STYLER is focused on women’s empowerment and development. Its clientele includes women of all ages, but it is especially popular with fashion-loving millennials who are looking for jewellery that is uniquely flavoured with tropical undertones and suitable for every occasion.

The AYA STYLER brand is gradually evolving into the largest distributor of locally made fashion accessories in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a well-respected label that is known for its exceptional shopping experiences, affordable prices, and assortment of pieces.

Gisselle Mancebo Jewelry is a high-end Dominican brand established in 2007.

Gisselle trained as an industrial engineer before becoming a jewellery designer “out of passion and conviction”.

She adds: “Since I was little, I had a great admiration for the world of jewellery, crafts, and fashion, because my maternal grandmother Gisela would adorn my neck with beautiful pearl necklaces and semi-precious stone chokers. Ever since then I have been delirious about exotic, different, unique pieces.”

Gisselle started off making jewellery for family and friends, but as word spread and the orders kept coming in, she realised that her part-time hobby was really her lifelong calling.

Gisselle is driven by a desire to add Caribbean character to the commercialisation of high-quality jewellery pieces and to share a slice of Dominica with every one of her clients. Her brand embodies the art of exclusivity while fulfilling its main objective to lift its Caribbean roots to the highest level.

Every Gisselle Mancebo Jewelry item is born out of the wealth of natural resources in Dominica, utilising materials such as larimar, Dominican Amber, cow horn, and wood which gives customers a product line that is truly authentic as well as sustainable and environmentally responsible.

As Giselle’s brand has grown over the past 15 years, she has not lost her love for making showstopping earrings, necklaces and bracelets, or her determination to learn from the continuous cycle of experimenting, failing, and starting over to produce the most striking jewellery possible.

Caribbean Fashion Aims to Steal the Show at Leading UK Retail Trade Event

Bold, bright and beguiling! Caribbean fashion is as expressive as the region it comes from and just as captivating.

Designers can be found on every shore, from Anguilla through to Turks and Caicos, with many Caribbean creatives drawing influence from the vibrancy around them in the people, places, food, history, art, and culture that intwine to tell each island’s distinct story.

In September, four Caribbean womenswear designers, with the support of Caribbean Export and the European Union, will be given the chance to showcase their unique fashion perspective at the UK’s leading retail home, gift, and fashion marketplace – ‘Autumn Fair’.

Exhibiting at the Autumn Fair in Birmingham will give these regional fashion entrepreneurs the ideal platform to connect with influential UK, European, and international buyers and retailers who are scouting for products that stand out from the crowd.

Let’s meet the three designers who will be attending the Autumn Fair.

Theodore Elyette is a multi-award-winning designer from the Bahamas. He grew up in a creative household and started designing at just 13 years old after spending many days at his mother’s textile factory.

Theo’s brand ‘TE’ offers clothing with a free-flowing, island silhouette that is sophisticated, feminine, and modern.

Theo loves colour, texture, and print, and this comes through in his sought-after custom designs which have adorned several celebrities including British actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, Real Housewives of Atlanta stars Eva Marcille and Porsha Williams, and Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams.

Lauded as one of The Bahamas’ most celebrated and recognisable labels,
Theo has worked alongside some of the industry’s leading celebrity fashion stylists and has featured in Essence Magazine, Cosmopolitan Philippines, and Vogue Italia.

In 2018, Theo also made history when he became the first Bahamian designer to showcase his fashion at Buckingham Palace before a royal audience which included the Duchess of Cambridge.

Theo is a proud Bahamian and recently conceptualised a resort wear collection with local screen printer ‘Bahama Hand Prints’ which incorporates his love for his island’s joyful culture.

The retail line includes dresses, tops and trousers in floaty, comfortable fabrics, and an eye-catching blue and white print with seashells and sea turtles. All the fabric is printed using traditional methods at a factory in the Bahamas and handsewn by local people.

Kimon Baptiste-St. Rose is a self-taught Caribbean fashion designer from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

She started her award-winning line Kimmystic.Clo in 2007, when she was still working as a junior accountant. Kimon’s day job initially funded her passion but after she was made redundant in 2012, she decided to become a full-time fashion designer, and has not looked back since!

Kimon prides herself on producing custom and ready-to-wear clothing that is ‘functional, timeless, and versatile’ while exuding Caribbean chic.

Kimon’s clientele is as diverse as her inspiration, from a classy college graduate to a business professional, or a fashionable mother who is always on the go. The Kimmystic.Clo woman, Kimon says, is “comfortable in her skin and wants to be comfortable in her clothing”.

All Kimon’s designs are environmentally friendly and made from 100% cotton or 100% linen fabric. The brand is currently available to international customers online and regionally via a flagship store in St Vincent and a small network of retailers in Barbados, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Anguilla, and Jamaica.

Kimon believes her brand can become an international fashion powerhouse, but she wants to keep production facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines to provide employment for the local population.

Loud by Afiya (also known as Loud) was officially started in 2012 by Trinidadian designer Afiya Bishop as a jewellery line before evolving into an online retail clothing brand.

Afiya always had an eye for fashion and studied Fashion Management at the University of Trinidad & Tobago. She also worked as a freelance stylist on commercial shoots and TV shows with local entertainers while maintaining her full-time role as a marketing executive.

Afiya’s clothing embraces bright colours and printed fabrics and consists of accessories, tops, pants, shorts, t-shirts, dresses, jumpers, rompers, and kaftans which are available at her boutique in Trinidad or via an e-commerce website for regional and international clients.

Appealing to the “modern-day superwoman”, Afiya describes Loud as a “female empowerment brand”, carefully crafted to make every client feel strong, confident, and fabulous, regardless of size or shape.

Afiya is always looking for new and exciting ways to build her brand including having a section in the Trinidad Carnival, pop-up shops in America, Jamaica, and Barbados, and launching an annual Afrobeats Brunch Event.

Loud’s social media presence is strongly established with over 27,000 combined followers on Facebook and Instagram. They are attracted to Afiya’s unapologetically Caribbean and African aesthetic which merges casual comfort with unmistakeable island elegance.

Consumers Crave Healthy, Natural Products with Flavour and A Story

Natural products and ingredients were in high demand before the COVID-19 global health crisis, but the pandemic has added impetus to the market with consumers looking for healthy items that are also as pure as possible.

Research shows that the global natural food and drinks market was valued at $120 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $361 million by 2031, a compound average growth rate of 11.44% from 2022 to 2031.

The word ‘natural’ has several connotations, but according to a global study conducted by Ipsos in 2018, the three most common associations which consumers make when they see the term on labels are:

1.            Healthy.

2.            No artificial ingredients.

3.            100% from nature.

Consumers expect natural products to be good for them, minimally processed, and free of artificial colours, sweeteners, flavours, and additives.

Considering the continued push for healthy and natural products is likely to only get stronger, food distributors are always searching for partners who can supply food and drink that tastes and looks good and, as a bonus, are cultivated with an environmentally friendly approach.

In addition, if the supplier has an impactful story to go along with their offering, this element also enhances the marketability of the product, and convinces consumers that what they are eating or drinking is not only beneficial to them, but also of benefit to the people producing it.

In the Caribbean, local producers regularly use indigenous fruits, herbs, and spices in handmade skincare and haircare items, as well as food and drink.

Caribbean ‘superfoods’ are combined with handed down, generational recipes to make jellies, teas, sauces, and jams etc that are bursting with flavour and accompanied by a background and history that cannot be copied or replicated.

St Kitts-based company, Sugar Town Organics, is a shining example of a micro enterprise that combines the Caribbean’s natural bounty with sustainable practices and a powerful origin story.

Established by female entrepreneur Anastasha Elliott, the idea for the botanical business came about when her mother Myrtrice was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Mrytrice was told that she had just four months to live but she decided to fight the illness using a holistic approach. She transformed her eating and lifestyle habits and was declared cancer-free shortly afterwards.

Anastasha saw how her mother used the power of nature to help her recovery, and wanted to share what the family had learned, along with what generations before had already taught them through traditional recipes for soaps, shampoos, oils, sauces, and butters.

Flauriel was established under the ‘Sugar Town Organics’ umbrella as a vegan food brand which pays tribute to Caribbean agriculture and ancestorial practices.

Anastasha harvests a vast majority of the fruits in her products, along with medicinal herbs and spices, from a mini farm in the backyard of her home, and she also works with local, organic farmers in her country and across the region to source a wider variety of raw materials.

Anastasha’s degree in culinary arts enables her to formulate dairy-free and sodium-free jellies, wines, teas, jams, cheeses, sauces, and syrups which are nutrient dense and have a long shelf life. Some of the ingredients used in Flauriel’s products include coconut, hibiscus, mango, sorrel, soursop, avocado, guava, and ginger.

Every single product is methodically handcrafted by Anastasha and her small team using long-held extraction, blending, mixing, and infusion techniques.

Speaking about starting her brand, Anastasha said: “I looked at how, in the Caribbean, we use food to maintain our health, beauty and families, and to heal from disease. Our brands are therefore very food centric, and very Caribbean, of course with cultural influences that both affected the Caribbean and play a role in the geographical origin of my family.”

Flauriel’s full range of offerings will be available at the upcoming Speciality & Fine Food Fair from September 5th-6th 2022 at Olympia, London. Anastasha will be part of a group of the Absolutely Caribbean pavilion comprising of small business owners supported by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the European Union.

The Fair showcases emerging and established brands within the artisan, fine food and drink industry and is a treasure trove for innovative and inspiring products as well as emerging trends.

Flauriel’s range will fit right in with over 700 other food and drink suppliers from around the world who are at the forefront of some of the world’s major food trends. But the background story of Anastasha’s company, along with Flauriel’s unique use of flavourful Caribbean-grown fruits, herbs, and spices, will make her products different from everyone else.

ATELIER CALLA: Timeless and Beyond Borders

When a passion becomes a profession and materials combine to support creativity and quality… Atelier Calla strives most earnestly to attract markets, with the Caribbean in mind! Caribbean Export intends to support the company’s approach and help Atelier Calla to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the region.

When Christelle Chignard Paul started to imagine jewelry and accessories out of horn or wood, it was more a hobby than a profession. Raised in Belgium, each stay in Haiti was an opportunity for her to find the beads and materials t traditional craftsmen used to produce all kinds of souvenirs. that inhabited her childhood memory.

In 1998, when she returned to her country, she realized the immense possibilities these materials offered. In 2007 she started a small production workshop, making pieces mainly from ox horn, which she assembled herself. After the earthquake, solicited by distressed artisans, she decided to formally establish Atelier Calla in 2011.

Paradoxically, the disaster marked a turning point in Christelle’s career and in the future of Atelier Calla. Donna Karan came to visit Haiti, which was under rubbles at the time and was captivated by Calla’s approach and products. She discovered the burnt appearance of the horns that the artisans removed through polishing that Christelle keeps in her creations. The American designer added her personal touch to this technique by working with the Calla workshop on original collections. This gave new visibility to Haiti and its artistic potential.

A showcase…that is exactly what Haiti’s creative craftsmanship needs, and even more so that of Atelier Calla, whose refined, contemporary and indeed timeless productions appeals to an international audience. Atelier Calla has already evolved from jewelry to tables setting accessories, which tastefully combines the noble pieces it transforms. And it is a success! In the workshop on Rue du Centre street, in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince, twelve people, including five artisans, work with Christelle. Three young women work on assembling and finishing the products before they are shipped. She teaches them about quality control and the importance of being consistent in putting the final touches to the products and in their packaging.

Atelier Calla grows through innovation, focusing on research and quality. “Horn is a living material, which evolves according to the amount of humidity. You have to find the right glue and the right materials”, explains the entrepreneur, who continuously invests in creativity, quality and sustainability. Her designs are often copied, which is one of the challenges she faces in Haiti, however her strategy is to move on to another product when the market is flooded with copies, often of lower quality.

Following Donna Karan’s visit, it was Macy’s, the famous American retailer, who took an interest in Atelier Calla’s products. At that time, around 2015, the country’s leitmotif was “Open for Business” and Haiti was buzzing with activities and NGOs. It was then that Atelier Calla became acquainted with Artisan Business Network (ABN), an NGO that took her to a fair in New York and introduced her to the U.S. market. “Participating in a fair gives you a certain credibility. You have to have the means to participate and have inventory. This reflects on the seriousness of the company. It is an industry where you have to see, touch, meet and make sure that the person you are talking to is there for the long haul”, explains the entrepreneur.

Atelier CALLA was exporting its products while still satisfying the local market that appreciated its creativity, when COVID came along and put an obstacle in the way of its expansion…

At that time, Atelier Calla was working on a bi-national collection, within the framework of the Symbiose project, initiated by Caribbean Export. The initiative brings together students and designers around jewelry.

Caribbean Export is also supporting another project that will allow Christelle to get a foothold in the Dominican market, through a programme financed by the trade and private sector support component of the bi-national HT-RD programme within the framework of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) of the European Union.

Invited to a training in digital graphics design for jewelry, Atelier CALLA met with representatives of Jenny Polanco. Something clicked! The Dominican brand was captivated by the contemporary aspect of Calla’s creations, which were different from the often very ethnic or folkloric connotation of local craftsmanship. The combination of traditional materials such as horn and wood with modern lines and trendy designs, appealing to a wide range of cultures, hit the mark. Atelier Calla received an order for samples and then a test order for table setting accessories: napkin rings, knives and cheese boards. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to work with Jenny Polanco’s team. Their open-mindedness, their encouragement in providing a sophisticated and luxurious touch to the collection…. They trusted me and I think I convinced them of our ability to create and produce accessories under the Polanco brand name.”

Atelier Calla has seized the opportunity given this first commission and will continue the artistic collaboration by proposing its own creations, and making products which reflect the style and specific esthetics of the Dominican brand’s collections. The small Haitian company is familiar with manufacturing for foreign designers. Approximately 30% of its production is destined for these brands in the U.S. market, the most buoyant export market for Atelier Calla. To meet this demand and these orders, “the biggest challenge today is the supply of raw materials and the rising costs of energy and transportation, which affects everything. Every time we get back up after an obstacle, we are presented with another imponderable one”, says Christelle Chignard Paul. But the small workshop has managed to build an image and a reputation that allow it to envisage real regional and international expansion. The important thing is to be known and represented, to find opportunities and to attend trade fairs abroad. In our very promising Caribbean region, the first country we have conquered is the Dominican Republic!

Some Like it Hot: Caribbean Pepper Sauces Growing in Popularity

Hot sauce (also known as pepper sauce) is a staple in restaurants and homes across the Caribbean – as essential as ketchup or brown sauce to British households, or barbeque sauce and mayonnaise to Americans.

Caribbean hot sauce goes with almost everything and there are several brands in the region that have taken this product to new heights and are now exporting it to eager international customers.

A growing appetite for innovative and bold flavours has led to a steady year-round interest in hot, spicy, and peppery sauces especially from younger consumers around the world.

In fact, at the recently held 66th Summer Fancy Food Show which is hosted by the American-based Specialty Food Association (SFA), a Trendspotter Panel labelled peppers a top trend for 2022 with peppers and traditional pepper sauces and condiments from around the world continuing to be prominent.

Research by the Imarc Group has projected the global hot sauce market will reach $6.4 billion (US) by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 5.4% (2022-2027).

In the UK alone, the Caribbean sauces and condiments market grew by 16.8% between 2019 and 2020 to be worth £1.12bn, according to Caribbean Export’s ‘Absolutely Caribbean’ report. The same report (quoting Euromonitor) found this demand for hot sauces continuing all over Europe with German, Spanish, and Dutch consumers also looking for similar products with a tangy bite.

The Caribbean is well known for its linkages to hot sauce as a long-time producer and exporter of fresh peppers.

Scotch Bonnet was originally cultivated by the Taino Indians and is now the Caribbean’s primary commercial pepper variety after going through a process of repeated refinement based on elements such as flavour, pungency, aroma, yield and disease and pest tolerance.

With a rating of 100,000-350,000 Scoville heat units, the scotch bonnet can be up to 40 times hotter than a typical jalapeño pepper. It has high levels of capsaicin, along with most B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, iron, and potassium and has been touted as beneficial for pain relief, arthritis, congestion and even to combat migraines.

Many of the Caribbean’s small to medium-sized pepper sauce producers have been selling their hot sauces to the discerning local market for many years. In some cases, these manufacturers utilise highly prized, secret formulas that have been handed down from generation to generation.

Recipes traditionally feature Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers, salt, garlic, spices, mustard, and vinegar, along with various other additions.

Producers also take full advantage of the Caribbean’s tropical climate, which is ideal for growing the indigenous main ingredient, to experiment with other flavours which complement Scotch Bonnet peppers such as guava, pineapple, coconut, papaya, and mango.

‘Old Duppy’ pepper sauce is produced in Barbados by creator and chef Nick Bynoe. It’s a relatively new kind on the block when it comes to Caribbean pepper sauce brands but has already attracted attention because of its wide array of options which appeal to genuine heat lovers and those with slightly milder tastes. It is also small batch, organic, and free of preservatives.

“We wanted to bring something bold and innovative to the market which represented authentic Barbadian and Caribbean flavours. Sourcing ingredients from local farmers and producers, we enhance our sauces with real wood smoked peppers to provide a truly unique experience. We are burning with excitement to showcase our brand and hauntingly flavourful sauces to the UK market” shared Bynoe.

Old Duppy uses real wood smoked peppers as a base and then adds locally grown fresh fruits, herbs, and spices to elevate the flavour profile. From very mild to very hot, five pepper sauces form the permanent lineup – Zesty Jalapeno, Fiery Pineapple, Pepper Punch, The Traditional, and Fyahpooch, with the fan favourite, Mango Fever, released seasonally every summer.

Other products available under the ‘Old Duppy’ brand name include Tamarind Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Vex Vinegar, a Bajan Ganoush dip, and Chili Oil.

Old Duppy will be on show at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair from September 5th-6th 2022 at Olympia, London as part of the Absolutely Caribbean pavilion, a group of micro enterprises supported by the European Union and the Caribbean Export Development Agency, a regional trade and investment promotion organisation.

Attendees will get to sample the various hot sauces and see why Old Duppy has become so popular with locals and tourists looking for an authentic taste of the Caribbean.

Authenticity and originality are qualities that consumers admire and, along with the essence of a product, contribute to the long-term success and appeal of a brand.

Old Duppy has these attributes and more and that’s why many people are attracted to its versions of Caribbean pepper sauce.

Caribbean Flavours Delight Tastebuds and Spice Up the Global Food Market

‘Bold, impactful, fresh, diverse, colourful, hot, and spicy’ are just some of the words you could use to describe Caribbean cuisine, which is gaining international fans via supermarkets and street stalls and is also increasingly impacting the high-end restaurant scene.

Caribbean food has been on the cusp of worldwide recognition for a while and was recently identified as one of the top trends to watch in 2022 by the National Restaurant Association.

The highly respected annual hospitality trends report for 2022 from consulting firm af&co. and communications specialist Carbonate, went even further in labelling Caribbean cooking its ‘cuisine of the year’.

Now in its 14th year, the annual report (‘Through the Looking Glass: Finding Your Way in a New Era of Hospitality’) seeks to identify the trends and practices that will shape the hospitality industry in 2022 by identifying key influences in food, beverage, sustainability, and other areas.

The report stated: “Caribbean Cooking is Hot! – and we’re not talking about the chilis. Caribbean cuisine is taking the stage as chefs explore the diverse range of flavours, ingredients, and culinary influences of this region. “Caribbean” is a catch-all term for the islands of the West Indies and the Caribbean Sea, as well as coastal countries like Belize and Guyana. The area encompasses a melange of culinary traditions including African, Creole, Cajun, European, Latin American, and more.”

The Caribbean’s diversity is one of its strengths and the beauty of its appeal is that it draws from a wide range of backgrounds. Africa predominantly influences the combination of staple ingredients, India and Latin America bring the spice and tang, and Europe adds a touch of flair.

The history and heritage behind Caribbean cuisine is exciting and unique and adds to its appeal.
Another major aspect which makes Caribbean food so popular is the seasoning. Caribbean seasoning is the region’s ‘secret weapon’. It can be found on seafood, vegetables, or meat and has a special culinary twist from every island. In Jamaica, jerk seasoning is the go-to, while others simply call their blend ‘green seasoning’.

Most seasoning recipes contain garlic, onions, celery, green onions, scotch bonnet peppers, and herbs like thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or tarragon.

The exact combination of necessary herbs and spices in various Caribbean seasonings is usually classified information, contained in a memory muscle that has been passed down from generation to generation for decades. But whichever herbs and spices are used, in whatever quantities, and for however long they are left to marinade together, they all bring out the best in whatever food they accompany.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, Pringa’s seasoning is a well-respected and long-established brand, known for using all natural herbs and spices along with seasonal fruits, and with no preservatives or unnecessary additives.

The business has been operating since 1997, after starting production from a small shop within the community. Pringa’s herbs are grown by local farmers and shortly after being freshly picked are transported to the nearby processing plant for bottling.

Pringa’s ‘Natural Flavour’ line of products consists of pepper sauces, green seasonings, jellies, and chips and its entire range will be on show at the Speciality and Fine Food which is taking place at Olympia in London on 5-6 September 2022.

Pringa’s is part of an ‘Absolutely Caribbean’ delegation of small Caribbean producers who are being supported by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the European Union. Each company manufacturers food items that are healthy, well-balanced, natural, and flavourful.

The COVID-19 pandemic encouraged consumers to take a close look at the source of the foods they consume. Even though the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, many are still focused on eating products which are as healthy and authentic as possible, but they are also increasingly willing to explore new tastes, flavours, and foods again.

Most Caribbean recipes can be easily recreated at home, especially once you have a trusted brand of seasoning close to hand. But distributors, retailers, and restauranteurs can also capitalise on demand by finding a reliable Caribbean-based seasoning producer.

Caribbean food has continuously evolved but still has plenty of opportunity for growth so, unlike some other markets, Caribbean cuisine has space to move into and lots of new palettes to convert.

What Consumers Want: The Rise and Rise of Speciality Foods

Speciality foods ranging from cocoa to coffee, sauces to blended seasonings, and rice to fragrant breads, are being snapped up by consumers eager for new food experiences but who are also health conscious and selective about what they eat.

It’s no surprise that the rising interest in speciality foods is also being reflected on the high street with gourmet, health and natural food stores becoming increasingly popular, along with local farm shops and delicatessens.

But what exactly are speciality foods? Precise definitions vary but in general these are foods made in small batches with high-quality ingredients and usually cater to a specific audience.

Recent research has found that the global specialty foods market is expected to be worth $247.2 billion (US) in 2025 which is a compound annual growth rate of 11%, according to the “Specialty Foods Global Market Report 2021: COVID-19 Growth and Change to 2030” from ResearchandMarkets.com.

The report adds: “Specialty foods are made from high quality ingredients and have limited distribution with unique or beautiful packaging… The launch of high quality and innovative products such as plant-based, convenience, better-for-you, non-GMO products with authenticity, and products with unique attributes such as low fat, low calorie, low sodium, high protein, no dairy and organic is a major trend shaping the growth of the specialty foods industry.”

Finding suppliers of speciality foods is made easier through trade shows like the upcoming Speciality & Fine Food Fair which is due to take place at London’s Olympia from 5th-6th September 2022.

Over 700 fine food and drink producers will be at this event which is expected to attract over 10,000 members from the artisan food and drink sector.

This fair provides the perfect opportunity to interact with small, local producers from around the world who are creating products that tick all the boxes when it comes to health, flavour, and sustainability.

Ten emerging speciality food and drinks businesses based in the Caribbean will be exhibiting at the Absolutely Caribbean pavilion thanks to support from the European Union and the Caribbean Export Development Agency.

Naledo is a Belizean company that works with 300 small-scale farmers to produce its whole root ‘Truly Turmeric’ paste. Old Duppy is a Barbadian enterprise producing small batches of preservative-free hot pepper sauce, tamarind sauce, chili oil, and BBQ sauce, using indigenous ingredients.

Sugar Town Organics is a female-owned micro enterprise based in St Kitts. Its Flauriel food range is vegan and organic. Some of the ingredients used include coconut, sorrel, soursop, guava, hibiscus, and mango. Every single product is methodically handcrafted by an all-women team using traditional extraction and infusion techniques.

Pringa’s Natural Flavours has been operating in St Vincent and the Grenadines since 1997, after starting from a small shop within the community. Pringa’s seasonings and sauces are made from all natural herbs and spices and tropical fruits grown by local farmers.

Alcoholic beverages include Caribbean craft beer by Antillia Brewing Company from Saint Lucia.  They specialise in brewing with fresh, local ingredients, often with a significant link to the history and culture of the islands. All natural and free of chemicals these beers truly are a taste of the islands.

Also from Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia Distillers Group of Companies offers over 25 rums and rum products from premium rums and liqueurs to traditional pouring rums.

J&J Spirits SRL with their brand Kalembu brings a traditional Dominican drink mamajuana to the commercial market with its aphrodisiac properties.  A blend of rum, red wine, and honey infused with twigs, bark, leaves and herbs give a unique taste of woody and herbal flavours that is sweet to semi-sweet.

Pairing nicely with mamajuana is the fruity flavour of Hispaniola cocoa from the Dominican Republic.  Produced by three generations of women Chocolala have a range of indigenous cocoa products.

These brands together with Jamaican food and drink producer Shavuot and  CariBelle from Trinidad and Tobago will be exhibiting at Specialty Fine Foods within the Absolutely Caribbean pavilion. 

Be sure to check it out and get your chance to win a trip to Saint Lucia courtesy of Saint Lucia Distillers Group of Companies, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority and Harbor Club Curio Collection by Hilton.

Caribbean Export lends support to Jamaican coffee exporters to grow in EU

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) will finance a marketing consultancy to enhance the competitiveness of Jamaican coffee exporters in the European Union (EU) market.

The initiative was developed following a meeting between Jamaica’s Ambassador to Belgium, H.E. Symone Betton Nayo and Deodat Maharaj, Executive Director of the Caribbean Export.

The first phase of the consultancy will focus on an analysis of the EU coffee market, including market entry requirements and the penetration strategies of other major coffee exporters to the EU. The second phase will focus on developing a targeted marketing strategy for the EU coffee market.

The initiative will address issues raised at a meeting in May 2021 between Jamaican, Belgian and other EU coffee stakeholders about the need for a marketing strategy in the EU. Participants requested that the strategy provides guidance on sustainability, telling the story of the product and ways to appeal to young people, a growing EU consumer base.

The initiative is funded by the European Union under the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development programme.

The Jamaica Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will host a launch event for this initiative on 27 January 2022, from 10 – 11 AM EST. The Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Her Excellency, Ambassador Symone Betton-Nayo, Deodat Maharaj and other key partners will participate in the event. The consultant, Windward Commodities will present a proposed review of the EU coffee market.

Proagro, a family business trying to break into the international market

The family business is one of the pillars of the national economy, especially when it is based on strong values and attached to best business practices. Proagro Dominicana is a worthy example of this maxim. It is an industry dedicated mainly to the production of fortified dairy powder products that has successfully managed to overcome the challenges of breaking into a segment of the Dominican market.

In 2005, José Luciano, a Dominican technician who had built up extensive experience working in the agricultural section of important companies, at the time of his retirement, decided to start off a business and, together with his wife Indhira Santana, founded Proagro Dominicana with the aim of marketing domestic agricultural products.

As a production strategy, Proagro has evolved since its inception. Its catalogue of products includes raw materials such as bitter cocoa powder and sugar, aimed at the pastry industry, while strengthening the maquiladora system or the product development system for major national supermarket chains, for whom milk powder, sweet and bitter cocoa, oats, sugar, among others are packaged.

Export, the great dream

Since 2017, Proagro Dominicana has set its eyes on the international market, after participating in a workshop sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Production of Santo Domingo, aimed at entrepreneurs having interesting exportable offers to place in international markets.

By the end of that year and early 2018, Proagro was initiating its export strategy in markets as distant as Russia and the United States, or as close as Puerto Rico.

Dominican cocoa, a bargaining chip

The products made with Dominican cocoa are highly recognized worldwide because they maintain characteristics called “fine flavour cocoa”, a quality that is used by Proagro to break into international markets under its brand name, La Criollita. Proagro uses the Hispaniola variety, a cocoa fermented under a Dominican technique that enhances the taste and flavour, and reduces the acidity, making it a “fine flavour cocoa”.

“The experience we have had in Russia, which is a fairly demanding market, as well as in Miami and the Bronx in the United States, is that the public attaches importance to the taste and flavour of this product, generating an immediate sale,” explained Indhira Santana, general manager of Proagro Dominicana.

“We work together with the National Confederation of Dominican Cocoa Producers (CONACADO), one of the largest associations in the country, which has a membership of more than 40 thousand small cocoa producers and has a very important social impact, since they, together with Rizek and Roig, are the largest local cocoa exporters. Twenty percent (20%) of their production remains in the country, and producers like us make a difference,” said Santana.

“Caribbean Export came to our aid at the most opportune time”

Proagro Dominicana is part of the group of ten companies selected by Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) under the Haiti-Dominican Republic Binational Cooperation Programme, funded through the 11th European Development Fund, which provides for a Binational Value Chain Strategy for the cocoa sector with the aim of maximizing the export potential of both nations.

The support of the European Union (EU) has been a key part of Proagro’s opening up to the international market. “This support comes to us at a time when we were not exporting, because we made the last export in 2019 and after the pandemic we stopped exports,” explained Indira Santana.

As Santana stated, Caribbean Export helped to identify which competencies were necessary for Proagro to be able to export successfully. “The Agency provided us with technical assistance to update our business plan and to be able to establish how Proagro’s conditions were from a financial perspective. They financed a consultant who carried out a feasibility study and a financial performance analysis to prepare us for the export market”.

According to Proagro’s general manager, the feasibility study funded by Caribbean Export became the springboard for the company to launch itself and have the right vision of what needed to be done. “A strategic work plan for export was created and concrete targets were set to achieve, with the result that exports made up 8% of the company’s sales budget.”

Taking advantage of all opportunities

Laura Marrero, international trade fair coordinator at Proagro, explained that “the experience of exporting to Miami and New York in 2017 and 2018 showed us how our products, especially La Criollita, were accepted by the Hispanic consumer, as well as the American consumers who were aware of organic products from the Caribbean”.

In 2021, trade fairs were started in a face-to-face manner. The first fair in which they participated was “Dominican Taste Festival 2021”, held in New York from July 24 to 25, organized by ProDominicana and the Dominican Embassy in the United States. Proagro received financial support from Caribbean Export to participate in the fair.

As a result of this fair, Proagro will export to the United States the first shipment of some ten pallets, and another container of 20 pallets is planned for December 2021. “We are doing fine now. The brand will not be by itself, but will be accompanied by a marketing strategy and the experience that we have garnered from the mistakes we made before.”

Dominican pride and enthusiasm at the Russian fair

With the strategic and financial support of Caribbean Export, Proagro participated in WorldFood Moscow, held in Russia from September 20 to 23, 2021. This fair became an area of great potential for the export of Dominican products, especially cocoa by-products.

As a result of its participation in WorldFood Moscow, Proagro reactivated its business contacts, which had started in 2019. “During the Moscow fair, there were many opportunities for starting business negotiations. We made contacts with representatives in Russia of other Dominican companies, and we have already sent them a proposal. We are currently in the closing phase of the process for arranging the first shipments we will make to Russia,” added Indhira Santana. 

Confident in the future

Proagro is currently working on establishing distribution strategies in the United States. Exports are estimated to increase and continue growing for the next year. “The sales projection we have is that from 2022 we ship a container of our products every month.” A container is equal to 20 pallets, about 1,400 boxes, which would be 22 tons of consolidated products.

As a result of the assistance from Caribbean Export, Proagro Dominicana is preparing to set up a Proagro subsidiary in Miami or New York and one in Russia. “That is our goal for the near future, which will allow us to make our products 30% cheaper to the overseas consumer, and give us control over the distribution chain of our goods in those countries,” stated Indhira Santana.


Caribbean Export Development Agency is pleased to open our Call for Applications under our Direct Support Grants Programme (DSGP). The DSGP has been developed in response to the immediate need for firms to retool and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Caribbean Export has allocated funds for CARIFORUM firms, to be dispersed as grant funding. This funding is provided by the European Union under the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme.

In order to apply for a grant under the DSGP the following documents must be read carefully, completed accurately and submitted and received by Caribbean Export as instructed within the Guidelines and Procedures by 4:30pm (Barbados Time) on October 2, 2020. Please note that once applications are postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on October 2, 2020, they will be accepted by Caribbean Export.

Application Documents

DSGP Guidelines (Updated 1st September 2020)

Application Form (Updated 1st September 2020)

Annex II – General Conditions

Annex III – Budget Template

Annex IV – Procurement Disbursement Procedures

Annex V – Request for Payment

Annex VI – Narrative Report

All queries relating to the Direct Support Grants Programme should be sent to dsgpinfo@carib-export.com



Uncovering Opportunities Created by a Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the world as we know it. Job losses, declining revenue and closed market opportunities have become the reality of firms around the world. Caribbean companies, not exempted, now have ‘a new storm’ to weather. One silver lining, however, is that the global pandemic has created new business opportunities. With changing customer behaviours and needs, firms must now examine new market trends to strategically re-position themselves to meet them.

Hygiene and Sanitization Products

With heightened consumer demand for clean and safe spaces, opportunities will continue to abound in the hygiene/sanitization sector. It is no surprise that manufacturers of cleaning products have witnessed a spike in sales. The CEO of Clorox has reported a 500% increase[1] in demand since the start of the year, and we recently heard how Trinidad and Tobago based manufacturer Chem Clean has also experienced an upsurge as households and businesses settle into new disinfecting routines.

yaphene hand sanitizer

However, these opportunities are not restricted solely to chemical producers. For example, Caribbean Health and Wellness firms like Sugartown Organics in St. Kitts & Nevis and numerous regional distilleries- members of WIRSPA have already begun to produce hand sanitizers. Experts agree that the tourism industry, upon which many CARIFORUM countries depend, will be under pressure to deliver a ‘beyond clean’ experience thereby amplifying this opportunity.

Information Technology Services

Covid-19 has forced consumers online with telecommuting, virtual classes, and online shopping becoming the new norm. This presents the opportune time for service providers like IT professionals, digital marketers, and app developers to support firms in strengthening their online presence which can positively impact exports. Remote working will push companies to invest more in IT, cloud, and cyber-security services. Opportunities also exist for Caribbean app developers to create apps that help businesses to fulfill delivery orders much like Instacart and UberEats does for the American market.  Across the region there are several examples of companies offering digital payment options such as Trinidadian firm ‘WiPay’, which recently launched in Barbados and Barbadian company, mMoney both of which help companies and customers with cashless transfers.

ecommerce webinar

The CEO of IT giant, Box, recently stated in an interview that the amount of business transformation from a technology standpoint over the next few months will be “completely unparalleled to any other time in history.”[2] Could Amazon’s planned workforce expansion (100,000 new hires) during this period indicate that this trend is likely to continue?[3]  Despite the persistent challenges that have slowed down the development of e-commerce in the Caribbean, the expansion of WiPay outside of Trinidad and Tobago during Covid-19 shows that the tide may be turning. 

Immunity Boosting Foods, Beverages and Nutraceuticals

honey stix coldflu

Caribbean agro-processors offering natural immunity boosting products can benefit during the pandemic.  Widely accepted Caribbean staples like ginger and turmeric are some of the foods that are known to strengthen immunity. Jamaica is revitalising its ginger industry valued at just under $1 million USD in 2019 while CARICOM trade in turmeric is valued at approximately $1.07 million USD[4]. As the world grapples with staying healthy, there are sectoral opportunities for value-added products. For example, Ecofarms in Jamaica has since launched its line of Cold & Flu HoneyStix. Nutmeg and cinnamon, like honey, supports healthy immune systems which could be beneficial for Caribbean spice producers.

Similarly, the nutraceuticals industry which is projected to experience growth to approximately $317.3 billion USD by 2024 also offers opportunities.[5] The region has successfully demonstrated its competence to excel in this sector as evidenced through experts like entrepreneur Dr. Henry Lowe (Flavocure Biotech) who has several US patents based on his research into high value health solutions using indigenous plants.

Film & Music

For firms in the creative industries, global trends are in their favour. Although faced with significant revenue declines due to cancellation of live performances and screenings, the increased interest in online consumption for both music and film is a positive note-worthy trend. Globally, audio-visual streaming increased by 14.5% during early March when several countries began their lock downs.[6] Netflix has seen their subscription rate more than double – moving from its forecast of 7 million new paid subscribers for Q1 to 15.8 million. [7]Membership on Twitch has also grown by 31% as has digital radio services, e.g. BBC’s radio streaming increased by 18%. [8]With more persons confined to their homes and the mental health benefits that music and film brings, Caribbean producers can use this time to share their content, expand their following and connect with diverse audiences on interactive platforms. Recently the first reggae Verzuz battle between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer on Instagram Live recorded close to 500,000 live viewers and a suite of A-list celebrities tuned in to watch. Similarly, a Los Angeles based DJ, @dnice hosted a DJ party in his kitchen with over 100,000 live viewers including Ellen Degeneres, Oprah, and Michelle Obama. This event increased his following from 200,000 to its current 1.8 million followers.[9]

How to find the opportunities

The opportunities available will be different depending on your own situation.  Here are three strategies outlined by the MIT Sloan Management Review to help you identify yours:

1. Same Product – Different Channel (Online): You may want to digitise your product or deliver your service online just like the example of DJ @dnice or the reggae challenge shared above. Nike has begun to engage customers with online workouts resulting in a 35% upshot in sales[10] while companies in Napa Valley are offering online taste testing lessons. What would applying this strategy look like for your company? If regional agro-processors offered an online cooking experience using their products, they could drive sales during or after the online event. The opportunities to offer virtual services or events to customers are endless and just takes a little imagination.

2. Same Infrastructure – Different Product: While the pandemic has brought some businesses (E.g. hotels and guest houses) to a standstill, others have experienced an increase in demand. Can your company re-purpose your existing infrastructure to produce or sell high demand products and services? In Barbados, some hardware stores have begun to sell groceries. With many parents balancing remote work and home-schooling, some guest houses in Jamaica have offered their rooms to those who want a few hours of uninterrupted work time. So how can you offer a new product or service to customers using your existing arrangement?

3. Same Product – Different Infrastructure: Some firms may find themselves with the ‘problem’ of struggling to meet the demand for their products and services and need to increase production or distribution capacity. Globally, firms have sought to bridge the gap through creative partnerships. To meet the spike in online shopping demand, Amazon has partnered with Lyft to temporarily hire workers as the demand for ride share has plummeted. With increased unemployment, firms now have a larger labour pool to train and deploy even if temporarily. During this period of uncertainty, adopt a proactive approach. Assess market changes to adjust your products, services, and strategies to meet current and future customer needs. What will you need to do differently to take advantage of some of the emerging opportunities and how can you apply the strategies shared to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on your business?

[1] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/clorox-has-seen-500-increases-in-demand-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-ceo-132530052.html

[2] https://www.uschamber.com/co/start/strategy/pandemic-business-trends-that-are-here-to-stay

[3] https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/04/01/amazon-partners-with-lyft-to-deliver-packages-and.aspx

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/daphneewingchow/2019/05/14/there-is-a-growing-market-for-nutraceuticals-in-integrated-cancer-treatment-in-the-caribbean/#6eb7c4c3204b

[5] https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/06/25/1528968/0/en/Global-Nutraceuticals-Market-Will-Reach-USD-317-3-Billion-by-2024-Zion-Market-Research.html

[6] https://www.twobirds.com/en/news/articles/2020/global/covid-19-the-music-shuffle

[7] https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/21/21229587/netflix-earnings-coronavirus-pandemic-streaming-entertainment

[8] https://www.twobirds.com/en/news/articles/2020/global/covid-19-the-music-shuffle

[9] http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business-report/industries-that-will-boom-provide-the-most-opportunities-post-covid–19_191136?profile=1056

[10] https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/three-proactive-response-strategies-to-covid-19-business-challenges/