A Hot Topic: Entrepreneur Nick Bynoe, Creator of ‘Old Duppy Foods’

It goes without saying that the traditional condiment of choice in most Caribbean households is (hot) pepper sauce.

Fiery, tangy, savoury, sweet; whichever way it comes, pepper sauce is beloved by almost everyone in the region and is put it on everything from salads and sandwiches to rice and meat, and even mixed in curries, soups, and stews.

Some people might rely on store bought bottles of pepper sauce, but a lot of households have their own ‘secret’ recipes which have been passed down through generations.

Barbadian entrepreneur Nick Bynoe started making his own version of pepper sauce when he returned to the island in 2015 after living for some time in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Canada.

Nick loves food and cooking but had no formal experience in the food industry after spending most of his career in warehousing, logistics, and operations.

However, when he realised his home island was importing lots of the same types of pepper sauce and did not even have a brand to call its own, he saw a gap in the market and an opportunity that could not be missed.

“The lightbulb moment came when I saw so many flavours and variations of pepper sauce in the international, mainly US market,” Nick recalls.

“I started watching YouTube videos and reading articles about the global trend in demand for speciality, small batch pepper sauce but I didn’t see a lot of genuine Caribbean representation. The idea grew from there.”

Despite his lack of professional culinary skills and his personal intolerance to hot, spicy food, Nick’s first batches of artisanal pepper sauce, made with smoked peppers, charred pineapple, local herbs, and spices were an instant hit with his friends and family.

Nick states: “Once I realised the business was going somewhere, I just tweaked the sauce a bit to make it more efficient for production because it wasn’t realistic to char the number of pineapples that I would need. I also chose peppers that were more readily available.

“After one or two adjustments we got it just right and we really let the ingredients speak for themselves because there are no fillers or preservatives. Once the real, natural ingredients are good, the sauce is good”.

Two more pepper sauce flavour profiles were soon added, the sweet and spicy ‘Pepper Punch’, and the milder ‘Zesty Jalapeno’.

All that remained was to officially name the business, but when Nick tried to register his local brand in 2018, the name he had in mind was already taken.

Slightly disheartened, he joined some friends on the beach for a bonfire and one of them suggested the name “Duppy” which in the English-speaking Caribbean means ghost or spirit. Nick liked the connotation and felt it even fitted in well with the sauce’s smoky origins.

Five years later and the ‘Old Duppy’ product line has gradually expanded to include five different kinds of pepper sauce along with tamarind sauce, BBQ sauce, Vex vinegar, Bajan Ganoush dip, and chili oil.

Nick has now turned his attention to exporting and took a major step towards achieving his goal of selling in the UK and Europe when he was accepted onto a 10-month ‘Launch to Market’ programme facilitated by the Caribbean Export Development Agency in September 2021.

Nick says: “‘Launch to Market’ really made us step back and focus on what larger markets would expect from our product. That programme was extremely helpful because as a small producer we would never have been able to afford that kind of assistance.

“Working with experts really gives you some unique insight into what you need to do for export and opens your eyes. The help was amazing and immeasurable.”

Last year, Nick had ‘Old Duppy Foods’ incorporated and took on a new business partner. The brand also took part in the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in London in September 2022 under the Caribbean Export umbrella.

“Taking ‘Old Duppy’ to England was always aspirational,” Nick states. “So, to see people there tasting and enjoying the product was very rewarding. We learned what the British market likes and doesn’t like, and it led to so many connections with buyers and distributors.

“We knew what we had to focus on and within a month we were working with an importer and distributor that matches the size of our brand, so we’ll grow together. Our first shipment to the UK went out in November and our second shipment is being prepared now.”

Nick believes the UK distribution deal will lead to more orders and to fulfil demand he has partnered with Export Barbados’s newly opened International Food Science Center in Bridgetown to assist with bottling and labelling.

In the short term, he is concentrating on developing a footing in the UK and plans to target two other major overseas markets. The long-term goal, he jokes, is “global domination”.

Nick adds: “When we decided to really have a go at this, we knew that Barbados was the foundation and an important part of the story. But we are very niche, so if we want to grow, we can’t stay in Barbados or even the Caribbean.

“One of my main goals is for tourists to come here and ask for ‘Old Duppy’ to take back with them. Not just a pepper sauce, any pepper sauce, but a Barbadian brand.”

Caribbean Export Discusses Strengthening Private Sector Support with The Prime Minister of Saint Lucia

A contingent from The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), recently met with government stakeholders and partners in Saint Lucia to discuss the Agency’s services, impact and relevance. Led by the Executive Director Deodat Maharaj, during March 22- 24, 2023, Caribbean Export’s visit to Saint Lucia aimed to establish clear priorities and chart a concrete programme of support for local businesses.

During the visit, Caribbean Export met with partners, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of External Affairs and International Trade and Civil Aviation, staff of Ministry of Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs, Invest Saint Lucia and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

The team had the pleasure of meeting the Honourable Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and hearing his government’s priorities, particularly on trade and investment. From the extensive discussions it was clear that the Agency’s work mirrors the government’s transformational agenda, which focuses on creating jobs and opportunities for the people of Saint Lucia. Caribbean Export lauded the Prime Minister on his imminent launch of the Youth Economy Agency and attendant programme that seeks to build capacities in Saint Lucia’s young entrepreneurs.

Caribbean Export also engaged in discussions with the Honourable Alva Baptiste, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civial Aviation and his team. Here, the meeting focused on international partnerships and leveraging Caribbean Export’s role in assisting in the implementation of agreements such as the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) through years of dedicated support in training, capacity building and overall technical assistance to the private sector to take advantage of those agreements. In light of the UK-CARIFORUM EPA, the agency is looking forward to similar focused work.

As the Agency continues to pave the way for transformative investments across the Caribbean, one of the highlights of Caribbean Export’s visit was meeting with Invest Saint Lucia’s CEO, Octavian Charles, and his team. During the discussions that surrounded the identification of bankable investment projects around three main priorities; renewable energy, digital economy and agriculture technology, Caribbean Export took the opportunity to signal the upcoming second iteration of its Caribbean Investment Forum scheduled for October 2022.

Said Mr. Maharaj of the visit, “The discussions demonstrated a clear appreciation of our strategic plan’s priority areas, which are fully consistent with Saint Lucia’s goals. I’m delighted with our engagements over the three days, and we look forward to strengthening our support to the Saint Lucian private sector.”

As a dedicated organization committed to promoting trade and investment across the Caribbean, Caribbean Export shares the vision of business playing a vital role in the region’s economic growth. The organization is proud to be leading the way in facilitating transformative investments, supporting local businesses, and creating jobs and opportunities for the people of the Caribbean.

Definite Chocolate and Makaya Chocolat Create a Binational Chocolate Collection

A new range of chocolates burst on the scene last year co-created by Makaya Chocolat from Haiti and Definite Chocolate from the Dominican Republic (DR).

The two companies have been participating in the Cocoa/Chocolate Binational Value Chain Project which focusses on enhancing the competitiveness of companies in Haiti and the DR operating in the cocoa sector.

Master chocolatiers Ralph Leroy (MAKAYA) and Jens Kamin (Definite Chocolate) met through a best-practices mission organized by Caribbean Export which sought to facilitate the exchange of ideas and best-practices between industry practitioners. After several virtual elaboration meetings in February and March 2022, these master chocolatiers met in person on May 2022 at the Definite Chocolate’s laboratory to finalize their joint recipe and share their knowhow; from the selection of the cocoa pods, to the tempering of the grains, to the roasting and wise mixing of the ganache.

Together they created a chocolate collection that combines the history of cocoa from both countries, while using recipes that highlight organic indigenous ingredients, such as coffee, cashews and peanuts, and common traditions.

This initiative was funded by the European Union and implemented in collaboration with the Haiti Jazz Foundation and Caracoli through their Gastronomic component of the Binational Cultural Dialogue.

The collection was presented on July 9, 2022 by the two chocolatiers during the ‘2nd Dominican Chocolate Festival’ held in Santo Domingo at the Ágora Mall shopping center. The launch was a resounding success attracting thousands and showcasing the potential of binational collaboration and co-production.

This special collection was also presented at the Salon du Chocolat Show in Paris, France in October 2022, as part of the promotional efforts of this Binational Cocoa/Chocolate Value Chain. The international exposure and audience acceptance was quite high resulting in the collection selling out.

The co-creation of a Binational chocolate collection between a Haitian and Dominican company is the first of its kind. The two countries share the same land space of the Hispaniola Island which has the indigenous name also known as ‘Quisqueya’ and believed to mean “mother of all lands” in the Taíno language. The three chocolate bars in this collection are inspired by the names of the island tribe chiefs (caciques) that ruled the five chiefdoms (cacicazgos) that are now cocoa-producing provinces:

Guacana, inspired by Guacanagaríx, chief of Marien (North Haiti and Northwest DR): a chocolate enriched with a pinch of coffee from our mountains.

Guario, inspired by Guarionex, chief of Magua (central region of the island): a chocolate filled with peanut ganache.

Caya, named after the chief Cayacao, from the cacicazgo of Higüey (another part of the island producing cocoa, on the Eastern tip): a deliciously perfumed chocolate with cashew nuts and enriched with pieces of nuts.

Caribbean Export and CAF Join Forces to Support Caribbean Private Sector

Caribbean business and the Region’s trade and investment agenda will benefit following yesterday’s agreement between the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) – the development bank of Latin America, on a framework of cooperation to support private sector transformation across the Caribbean.

The Heads of the two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in The Bahamas at the 44th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting on the 16th of February 2023.

Caribbean Export and CAF have agreed to work together in the areas of research, data collection exchange and analysis on sustainable development, trade and investment promotion issues affecting Latin America and the Caribbean with the view to strengthening opportunities for sustainable private sector growth.

Central to regional transformation will be the institutional strengthening and capacity building of businesses to enhance the productivity and sustainability, particularly in the areas of technology and innovation, digital transformation, green energy and entrepreneurship. Together they will focus on addressing key issues related to regional integration, trade and investment promotion.

CAF is a development bank focused on improving the lives of Latin American and Caribbean people. An institution which aims to become the green and blue bank of the region, CAF vision aligns well with Caribbean Export’s areas of strategic focus to advance the region’s transformation.

The Virtual e-Commerce Accelerator Programme Gets Underway

Thirty Business Support Organisations (BSOs) and 150 businesses from across the region will participate in a 5-month joint online training initiative to support E-commerce adoption as part of their business strategies and operations. The technical support provided under the Virtual E-Commerce Accelerator Programme (VEAP) started today, Thursday February 2, 2023.

Two Caribbean digital transformation specialists, Gilbert Williams and Leighton Campbell are facilitating the training and coaching. These master trainers met with representative from BSOs in 13 Member States over a period of five weeks to prepare them with core content and strategy that will allow each of the BSOs to work with at least 5 businesses throughout the rest of the programme. The BSOs will work together with the master trainers to guide the businesses to successfully adopt e-commerce leading to increased sales and expanded market reach.

“The VEAP is part of Caribbean Export’s wider digital transformation of business agenda. Key design elements of the programme include building the capacity of BSOs to deliver e-commerce adoption initiatives to their clients during and beyond the project’s life.  I am confident that we have developed a unique and adequate methodology to achieve this outcome.” – stated Phillip Jackson, Programme Lead and Advisor for Innovation and Digital Business.

The VEAP is an 18-month Technical Cooperation (TC) supported by a grant from the French Development Agency through Expertise France, the French international technical cooperation agency and implemented by Caribbean Export Development Agency.

The current training will be followed by a second installment of the programme that will incorporate the lessons learnt from the first iteration. The second phase will target a new cohort of businesses.

For more information or to get involved contact Phillip Jackson at : pjackson[at]carib-export.com

Feccano Lends Prestige to Cocoa Made in Haiti 

Promoting fair trade and organic cocoa among farmers and transforming the image of Haitian cocoa worldwide. These are the ambitious but realistic objectives of the Fédération des Coopératives Cacaoyères du Nord (FECCANO – Northern Cocoa Cooperatives Federation), which has managed to position itself both on the local and community level and on the international market.  

It has been said that the inhabitants of the Northern parts of Haiti are a proud people, particularly owing to their contribution to the founding of their nation. The 4,000 cocoa farmers who are members of FECCANO can also be proud. Founded in 2001 by six cooperatives, the federation has become in its 20 years a leading player in the production of fermented cocoa in Haiti. It now brings together eight cooperatives, has developed a formal structure and is constantly improving its skills, knowledge and the quality of its cocoa. This growth is encouraged by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) through its programme to support the cocoa/chocolate value chain in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

Haitian cocoa has a remarkable intrinsic quality. Whether criollo, trinitario or forestero, its fruity aromas and its characteristics stem from the old varieties cultivated by the farmers, but also from a soil favorable to the production of a high-quality cocoa. The average annual production is currently estimated at 400 tons with an annual growth rate of about 20%. This is very little compared to the national volume estimated at 6,000 tons annually, and 60,000 tons in the Dominican Republic. 

Haitian cocoa farmers have long been dependent on intermediaries: traders, hucksters, speculators and exporters, working within a monopoly market, who have always offered very low prices. Since its establishment in 2001, FECCANO works directly with the cocoa farmers. This arrangement has led to the recovery of the added value of the product and increased producers’ income. “Back then, we used to cut down cocoa trees, but today we plant cocoa” boasts Guito Gilot, one of the founding members.

In the ‘Jardin créole’ as the Haitian vegetable garden is known, in the shade of the cocoa trees, farmers not only cultivate yams and plantains, but also cassava, beans, corn, chayote, etc. Fruit trees, especially citrus trees, associated with cocoa trees, feed the family, but also give the soil and the land a quality that will give each cocoa its particular flavor. This Creole garden, at the heart of the Haitian ecosystem, is at the root of the Haitian family survival. Even though it has slowed down the development of cocoa production, considered as secondary, it could however be its future thanks to the promotion of the whole chain and the particular taste associated with each type of soil. 

In 20 years, the cocoa exported has changed category. Through training, sharing of good practices, and better knowledge of their product, FECCANO has helped farmers, both male and female (40% of the members are women), who grew a few cocoa trees underneath mango trees, become exporters of beans certified according to organic and fairtrade standards. It is worth noting that it is the fermentation process, an essential step to release the “precursors” of aromas and to obtain a quality product, which has been a turning point, when for decades the cocoa in the area (and in the country) was not fermented and therefore sold at lower prices.  

Since 2008, with the technical assistance of a French NGO (AVSF) and the support of the Conseil Départemental des Hauts-de-Seine (France) (Departmental Council of Hauts-de-Seine), FECCANO has undertaken to mastering the fermentation process to enhance the value of its cocoa. It has gradually positioned itself as the pioneer of quality cocoa across the country, before becoming the national leader and building a global image. In 2011, FECCANO obtained the Ecocert certification. Two of the largest international chocolate companies, Ethiquable and Valrhona, have become its biggest buyers. In 2013, FECCANO obtained the SPP (Fair Trade) certification, and in 2013 and 2015, it obtained the Cocoa of Excellence prize awarded by the International Cocoa Awards. It grew to 7 member cooperatives in 2014, and then to 8 in 2018. Simultaneously to this growth, the Federation is working to change mentalities.

We are committed to respecting the environment and are keen to incorporate practices relative to the conservation of biodiversity and food safety into our processes,” explains Jean Guillaume Célestin, executive director of the Federation. FECCANO plays a key role in raising awareness, providing guidance and personalized assistance to farmers. “It was not easy to convince farmers of the benefits of the cocoa tree “regeneration” program when it was put forward in 2015. We recommended introducing new seedlings on these 60 to 80-year-old plots and carrying out a diagnosis to implement the systematic pruning of the oldest trees. They were afraid that the plot would be less productive. I was afraid of it myself…” says Dejean Phanord, chairman of the board of directors. But it was proven to be the best approach.  

Today FECCANO wants to go further… And Caribbean Export supports it through a program financed by the trade and private sector support component of the bi-national HT-RD program under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) of the European Union.  In June 2021, the Agency organized a virtual training on quality management systems, certification management and cupping. The objective was to strengthen the knowledge of FECCANO staff in Haiti, to orient them towards competitiveness and enable the network’s cocoa to have a better image and to carve out a place for itself in the specialty cocoa market.  

Following this training, FECCANO intends to provide technical assistance and work on a strategy to improve the quality of their cocoa and direct it towards a higher value market.  A field visit will allow them to develop a concise, effective and appropriate strategy. These corrective and preventive actions should improve production and post-harvest processes, resulting in better quality and the possibility of reaching higher value markets. 

Early this year, Caribbean Export supported the creation of a website that will introduce FECCANO and its member cooperatives to customers and the general public, as well as the different services and products the federation provides. In February 2022, the Agency also organized meetings with other cocoa sector professionals. This project which aimed to exchange best practices was organized with the National Confederation of Dominican Cocoa Farmers, CONACADO (for its acronym in Spanish), with the aim of learning about their promotional strategies and marketing of Dominican cocoa, their production and processing techniques and organizational management mechanisms implemented in the Dominican Republic, the leading exporter of organic cocoa in the world. Following this, FECCANO has included the process of making chocolate from the bean to the bar in its future projects. “This is part of the challenges to be undertaken, along with our efforts to increase production and competitiveness, and therefore convince producers to plant more. But not only that… we need a real cocoa policy in Haiti, with institutional strategies on agriculture, and also on transportation. Most of the production areas are very isolated and fairly inaccessible,” explains JG Célestin.  

Changing the image of Haitian cocoa takes time, but the results are very promising. FECCANO has guided its members, accompanied the farmers, and stimulated a solidarity that has helped them achieve the vitality of an organized national producer. Of the 8 member cooperatives, all are certified fair trade (SPP), 4 are already certified organic and the other 4 are in the process of being certified. With a significant increase in exports (50% between 2020 and 2021) and support such as that offered by Caribbean Export which focused on the value chain, the dream of going from the bean to the chocolate bar could become reality. The 8 cooperatives now ensures the fermentation process is undertaken. The federation receives the beans ready for export and can test them in its laboratory. Thanks to the recent virtual capacity training on cupping, FECCANO is now able to evaluate its roasted product. It is only one step away from the bar!