SRC enables sweet dreams
I'm not usually one to sing high praises for government agencies, but there is one that I think is good at what it does. This agency can provide real solutions to entrepreneurial issues, and yet they are grossly underutilised.
I didn't know anything about the sweetie-making business. I'm a marketer. All I knew was that I longed for a candy that was made in Jamaica in natural flavours my goddaughter could recognise and appreciate. That was the birth of Sweetie Confectionery, my company in my mind.
I was actually once an employee of the Scientific Research Council (SRC), so I knew first-hand of the government agency's track record of developing and improving formulations for food products. If anyone could develop a winning guava Sweetie, I knew the SRC could.
In my very first meeting with a team of five from the SRC, I described the end product I had envisioned. In its 52 years of existence, SRC has very seldom, if ever, been asked to make sugar confectionery. However, its mandate is to use scientific research to stimulate business creation.
When I explained my dream, the team saw the economic viability of the project and knew they had the technical competencies in house to see the product to fruition. The scientists made it happen.
The SRC is an agency of the Government of Jamaica responsible for scientific research and development and the strategic application of its results to positively impact national growth. Its current focus is on supporting micro, small and medium-size enterprises, especially those in the agro-processing sector.
The list of SRC clients is long and familiar and includes products from household brands like Grace Foods, Walkerswood and Devon House, to name a few. The agency, over the years, has developed various innovative formulations for juices, condiments, preserves, herbal teas, chips, soups, sauces, seasoning, and minimally processed and canned foods.
I want to encourage Jamaicans to see the SRC as more than lab coats and test tubes. Stories like mine are an opportunity to highlight the practical application of science and technology. You want a june plum sweetie to sell? The SRC can help you develop it.
I encourage other budding entrepreneurs with bright ideas to talk to the SRC so that together, you can develop innovative products and commercially viable businesses.
The assistance given to me on the Sweetie project extended beyond just the product formulation. The agency also provided production procedures, suggested raw material and equipment suppliers, gave best-practice quality-control measures, and facilitated the scaling of the project from the pilot plant at the SRC to the final manufacturing facility.
I have to say a huge thanks to SRC food technologists on the project. We experimented with numerous oil suppliers and flavour strengths until we came up with bold tastes Caribbean people will be able to identify with and love.
We don't have to know it all. I can tell you first hand that it begins with a dream, and agencies like the SRC stand ready to make dreams even sweeter.