Born out of a need to create employment in Jeffrey Town, St Mary, several of the community’s women have developed a modern way of baking a traditional Jamaican favourite – the sweet potato pudding.
The dessert is fondly referred to as ‘hell a top, hell a bottom, and hallelujah in the middle’. That’s because of the method used to create it – a method that includes putting the sweet potato mixture in a dutch pot on a coal stove, and putting the coal fire on the pot cover.
The ‘Jet Town Products Sweet Potato Pudding Mix’, which is created by the women, only requires consumers to add water and place in the oven to create the delicious Jamaican classic, which typically takes hours to prepare.
Jet Town Products is a female-led business that was launched to support the local farmers association’s ability to continue its social interventions within the community.
Group member, Ivy Gordon, said the product was created after several unsuccessful attempts at entrepreneurship.
“We had done several other ventures, including making jam and pepper sauce as we sought to find a value-added product to meet our goals. We found that the market for them was not strong enough to maintain a business, and the products used were also vulnerable crops such as peppers – which were affected by too much rainfall,” she explained.
The women, who are also farmers, did not give up after facing obstacles.
“We started doing breadfruit flour, as we were the host of the breadfruit festival from 2005 to 2012. In drying the breadfruit as a flour, we said ‘let us try sweet potato…’ So, we dried it as a trial. When we got back the dried sweet potato from the mill, I said ‘let me see if it can be used to make pudding’, and I tried it and it was great,” she recalled.
Since then, Gordon and six other women in the community have worked tirelessly to perfect the product.
“We took our time to develop this product and taste-tested it for months, bringing it to our parent-teachers’ meetings, church and farmers’ meetings to test it until we got it right. We also had to search for a bag to keep the product fresh and to create a label,” she added.
The group identified a production facility, which was funded through grants and assistance from persons who believed in the product.
“We got a lot of help to put things in place so we could get our Bureau of Standards licence and, with that, the sweet potato pudding mix has been around since last year June and was stocked in supermarkets in late November,” Gordon told the state-owned Jamaica Information Service.
According to her, the success of the product contributes positively to the socio-economic conditions of Jeffrey Town.
“Sweet potato is a crop that we can grow ourselves, and, if we can drive this business, we can create jobs for ourselves, as women can peel the potatoes, make the flour and [do] the packaging. It also means that our farmers in Jeffrey Town can grow potatoes to supply the main ingredient for this product,” she said.
Gordon expresses gratitude for the positive feedback from consumers to the fairly new product. “We are proud to hear the great comments, as we are just a group of individual farmers who have come together to try and make things better for ourselves and the community,” she added.
After a year on the market, the ‘Jet Town Products Sweet Potato Pudding Mix’ is currently in 10 local supermarkets, and its creators are now eyeing the export market.
“The next focus will be beyond Jamaica’s shores, as we are keen on marketing the products to members of the diaspora who love a Jamaican classic in a convenient package,” Gordon further said.
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