Promoting brand Jamaica Across the World: Benlar Foods
by Karen Rollins Apr 29, 2019
Craslyn Benjamin started Benlar Foods in 2014 while working as a strategic forecaster with Jamaican food giant, Grace Kennedy.
The business was initially an experiment intended to address a supply shortage. Craslyn was contracted by Grace Kennedy to grow scotch bonnet peppers. So, on two acres of land she rolled out a fully organic, best practice set-up which proved to be several times more bountiful than imagined.
She says: “It was amazing. What I made in three months of reaping, I was making in a year at Grace, and they paid me really well!”
The success inspired Craslyn to leave her job at Grace Kennedy and run Benlar Foods full-time.
She strategised on how she could increase yield and grow produce efficiently, and she shared the knowledge gained with other farmers in her community so that they could also reap her level of success.
Craslyn explains: “I wanted to increase the availability of authentic Jamaican products. Sometimes you hear: ‘Oh, I am not getting the authentic jerk seasoning anymore from Jamaica.’ I have an issue with that because our country is known for its food and spices, so I feel the need to protect that.”
After a year in business, Craslyn was offered a major contract with Burger King which proved to be the stepping stone toward developing a sustainable business model. She scaled up production, created new products and launched Benlar-branded spices, all with a view toward strengthening brand Jamaica.
Taking on the world
Now, after four years of business and six major contracts, Benlar Foods is continuing to innovate and expand.
The company has just incorporated an e-commerce platform, which facilitates trade by enabling them to drop shipments in different countries.
Organic food is next on their list of offerings along with setting up an agro-processing facility which will control freshness along the supply chain; add value; and meet customers’ preference for convenience. The facility will be the only one in Jamaica offering this kind of service.
Benlar is also pursuing a Safe Quality Foods (SQF) certification, which will enable exports to countries like Australia and Sweden.
Craslyn adds: “This is really big for us, in terms of taking us to the next level where food safety and traceability are concerned.”
The road to success
Crasyln believes the knowledge she has gained through her enrolment in the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, her selection for President Barack Obama’s ‘Young Leaders of the Americas’ initiative and Caribbean Export’s WE-Xport programme is “priceless” and she continues to reap the benefits.
These programmes showed her how top US conglomerates manage fresh produce and distribution across several states, assisted her with developing a strategic action plan, and exposed her to a network of over 245 entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean who she exchanges ideas with every day.
She says: “You must network with entrepreneurs across the region. Study how countries, like Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti do business differently, and see what elements can be beneficial…to your operation.
“We don’t operate in a vacuum. A global approach will be key to your success.”
Founded in the land of wood and water, Benlar Foods is a social enterprise that is transforming lives by offering healthy, nutritious foods, sharing knowledge and empowering other members of the Caribbean community.