Caribbean Specialty Foods Co. Ltd.

Caribbean Specialty Foods Co. Ltd.

A Company with a Vision to Become a Household Name 

Established in 1995 Caribbean Specialty Foods Co. Ltd. specializes in the production of flavored pepper sauces and dips. In 2021 the company signed off on their lease agreement for space at e TecK's Moruga Agro-processing and Light Industrial Park. This move was indicative of their ambitions to expand operations and contribute greater to national food security.

InvesTT's Marc Sandy, Business Facilitation Officer (left) and Shurla Henry-Gibson, Marketing & Communications Manager (right) sampled some of Hesma Tyson's products at her Moruga facility.

Partnering with InvesTT

Some of the services provided by InvesTT for the establishment of Caribbean Specialty Foods at e TecK's Moruga Agro-Processing and Light Industrial Park included:

  • An assessment of the company’s needs and readiness for on-boarding at the Moruga Park.
  • Guidance on how to approach the recruitment of Operations and Administration Officer.
  • Provision of advisory services re-engagement of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and other stakeholders to be approached for strategic interventions going forward.
“InvesTT has always been accessible for anything I needed. When working with InvesTT the synergy is excellent and the confidentiality afforded by the agency is key to making me feel easy and comfortable during our exchange of information.”
Hesma Tyson, Managing Director

The Story Behind the Brand – The origin of Caribelle

Caribbean Specialty Foods Co. Ltd, founded by Hesma Tyson, had its beginnings in her kitchen at home. To grow her product line, she complimented her home base set-up by using external production factory facilities until 2021 when she launched her new operations at eTecK's Moruga Agro-processing and Light Industrial Park.

Success was not easy as one of the most challenging hurdles Hesma encountered over the years was securing funding to purchase the equipment she needed to facilitate her expanding operations. A major requirement for funding was the acquisition of available space to house the equipment. However, in 2020 when the Park was commissioned by the Government, everything fell into place. With space secured to install new equipment she successfully applied for funding through the Grant Fund Facility (GFF) which is managed by ExporTT for the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

In addition to the GFF, Hesma was approved for a grant under the International Certification Fund (also managed by ExporTT) to assist with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification.

Overcoming Challenges and Nurturing Markets

Exports of Caribelle products are mostly done through third parties and mainly to the CARICOM region. Shipping directly to the USA was undertaken but the cost to ship the products in glass bottles proved too high to be sustainable.

In 2020, COVID-19 almost devastated Hesma’s business which moved from a very profitable Carnival season and then dropped to an all-time low. Compounding this decline, when food manufacturing was reinstated after the pandemic restrictions, bottles were not available for packaging the products thus leaving her operations stalled. This situation lasted for almost six months. However, Hesma rose to the challenge and shifted her focus to alternative forms of packaging which led her to explore the use of pouch packaging.

She worked with suppliers out of China for almost one year to design a pouch to suit the company’s needs with particular attention to the ability to maintain the flavor of the products.

“We were able to accomplish this because we designed the packaging locally for production in China,” said Hesma.

The response to this new packaging was tremendous. She credits this to the excellent price point which made the products more affordable. The products are available locally with efforts being made to enter the supermarkets. 

“We like to mix things up ... The thing about the Caribelle foods is the taste. There is a mixture of flavours to satisfy the Trini palate.”
Hesma Tyson

Available Products

Hesma embarked on producing sauces and condiments made from natural, locally grown produce that suited the Trini palate for a sweeter flavor to that of the foreign imports.
“When I started, the first problem I had to solve was making my favourite condiments from natural produce. Next, was to supply dips to satisfy the local palate. Most dips supplied by foreign companies were too acidic for the Trini palate. We like something sweeter.”
Hesma’s love for pepper is the driving force behind her pepper sauce products. The general demand for dips fueled her creation of a variety of dips.
As a young girl she made local snacks for sale from her mother’s place so much so that food processing and sales became almost a part of her DNA. Sauce-making came about through the interest of a friend in producing and selling pepper sauces. Intrigued by the prospect, she began researching the processes involved and making the necessary connections. It took three to four years to be ready for production. However, there was a desire to create more than just pepper sauce so she experimented with different flavours – for e.g. lime, mangos, tamarind and created different flavoured pepper sauces which she sold door-to-door, offering sauces with chips. She soon became known as ‘the pepper sauce lady’ at the offices she visited to sell her products.

Why Moruga?

Once e TecK's Moruga Agro-processing and Light Industrial Park was commissioned, moving there was a natural choice for Hesma. In her experience, Moruga is not only an international name because of the scorpion pepper which is second hottest pepper in the world, but there is added value in being associated with the lush surrounding woodland. It is an area dedicated to food production and the only one of its kind in the Caribbean region. 

A Space Designed for Food Processing

Moruga is a woodland area protected by the EMA and dedicated to food production and processing thus making it an ideal starting point for certification. At other industrial parks there is little control over the type of manufacturing which occurs within the space for e.g. tyres, chemicals or another product that can negatively impact the possibility of achieving HACCP certification. 

Personal Ties

The brand Caribelle was a note to Hesma’s deceased mother who was a member of the Carib community and also lived in Moruga. This natural connection to Moruga made moving to the Park akin to bringing the brand home.

The Caribelle Vision

Generally, for most products on the market the retail price increases once there is an associated organic label. This is not the aim with Caribelle products. Hesma’s vision is for the average consumer to afford her products. This is the dream for Caribelle - to become a household name - and the affordable prices make this very possible.

“It’s all about the journey, not really the destination.”

Leapfrogging five years from now, Caribbean Specialty Foods would have grown into other areas of food security. The company name, after all, highlights food in general and not only sauces or condiments so there is a lot more to be done. Hesma is poised to move forward with new products already on the horizon. In five years, the aim is also to have her products in Africa – Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa - and the price flexibility associated with pouch packaging supports this thrust to export to such regions. 

Within her five-year plan there is also the intention to assist other food processors along the path to sustainability. The journey is a challenging one, but Hesma’s goal is to bring the small entrepreneurs along with her to success.