Caribbean food from Jamaica could be the next big thing as consumers search for new tastes

Adventurous Brits seem to be constantly on the lookout for the next big thing when it comes to exotic tastes, and the Caribbean is currently polishing up its CV in the hope of landing the job.
And giving it a push in the right direction is JAMPRO, Jamaica’s promotional organisation, which has created a Flavour of Jamaica initiative that it says will provide a platform to help companies gain greater distribution for their brands while stimulating consumer interest and awareness in all aspects of Jamaican cuisine.
Trade commissioner Neil Hill says a major trade and consumer campaign will run through 2006. “People are constantly looking for new taste experiences and Jamaican foods provide a fresh and exciting alternative to others from around the world that have now become so familiar they are no longer seen as exotic.”
One company signed up to the initiative is Grace Kennedy, which claims to be the largest food producer in the English-speaking Caribbean. It is reorganising its UK
business and has recently launched a range of products.
Europe marketing manager William Welch says: “The number of British tourists travelling to the Caribbean is rising every year and they want to enjoy the foods they discover on holiday when they return home.”
The company is introducing two convenience products - Caribbean Combos, long grain rice blended with beans and herbs and spices and which are a traditional meal accompaniment in the Caribbean; and Salted Cod Fish, a Jamaican favourite that can be used straight from the can rather than having to go through the traditional method of soaking to remove the salt.
Jamaica-based Walkerswood also places importance on provenance. The company, which provides jerk seasoning, sauces and marinades along with canned Jamaican vegetables, sources its ingredients from 70 Jamaican farms. Chairman Roddy Edwards says: “Caribbean food is an untapped market and, as tastes change, there is a huge opportunity for growth.”
But some commentators are still looking to Thai food for the major growth. Premier Foods’ general manager Sue Knight says: “We have always thought Thai was going to be the next great cuisine but it’s never quite got there. It’s a lot more exotic than Chinese and has a lot of potential.”
Budgens trading manager Alan Clark reckons cuisines closer to home will have the edge. “I expect we’ll see other, maybe less exotic, cuisines coming through. This is already noticeable in certain cities with Eastern European foods coming in.”
Foods from the Middle East and North Africa are also attracting attention. Moroccan and Lebanese brand Al’Fez says that growing international appeal has helped it gain listings in Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose and Budgens and lines such as harissa paste, Ras El Hanout spice blend and falafel are growing.
“North African and Middle Eastern foods continue to grow in popularity as consumers develop a taste for exotic flavours,” says Steve Fisher, marketing and export manager at brand owner First Quality Foods.
Frozen ethnic snacks company Daloon agrees, but also predicts the growth of other Far Eastern flavours such as Indonesian, Vietnamese and Malaysian.