Virgina Dare Jamaica Limited presented the unified image of the company as a number of its executive members gathered to share with Youthlink the precise nature of the company operations. CEO john Bailey outlined the formation of the Virginia Dare Extract in New York in 1970. Similar to Now, the primary function was to supply the food and beverage industry in Jamaica with flavour and colours for their ingredients.
At present, Virginia Dare is described as THE flavour house of the island, producing over 90 percent of their products locally and also delivering to customers in Kingston and northern Jamaica. The company has expanded from flavours, adding fragrance production, packaging and beverage production. According to Operations Manager Nicole Gracey-Mondle, the fragrance expansion was actually prompted by customer using Virginia Dare flavours to produce their own personal-care products. Thus, the company decided to produce fragrances ranging from baby powder to suave and lime.
“Instead of using our flavours, you can use our product that was designed specifically for that market to make your product and be able to compete effectively with international products,” she explained.
THE EXPANSION OF VIRGINIA DARE
The beverage expansion made a daring splash on the market in 2012 when Virginia Dare introduced the country’s first locally produced sports drink, Hi-Lyte. Sales and Marketing Manager Sasha-Gaye Lewinson explained the motivation behind the product. “At Virginia Dare, we understand the importance of hydration and what happens is that as the teen or anybody else exercises or does rigorous activities, the body loses a lot of electrolytes and minerals – so what the Hi-Lyte does is replace that,” she shared. The company also produces a Hi-Lyte concentrate especially targeted at schools and sporting events.
The beverage line has further been expanded as Virginia Dare introduced its Hi-Vyte vitamin- enhanced water. The product is enriched with much-needed vitamins and simultaneously reduces the sugar intake for the individual who consumes it. Both products are priced competitively, as Virginia Dare “takes a product that’s pretty expensive and puts it in a space that most people can afford it”. Teens, especially, might want to look out for these products.
In addition to their sports drink line, Virginia Dare produces other syrups and flavours that can easily be used within the household for beverages, cooking and even baking. Their potent ginger flavour is especially useful for all three, as only a small portion can be used to prepare a cup of ginger tea, flavour pastries and drinks, or even used in meat sauces. The fruit punch and sorrel syrups are equally versatile, both falling under Virginia Dare’s patented cordials – meaning that the product contains genuine fruit extracts.
John Bailey highlights the work that the company has done with GraceKennedy and Tru-Juice, in particular, to industrialise the sorrel product in Jamaica, “taking the product in large batches from our farmers – we work with a lot of farmers around Jamaica – and producing a sorrel concentrate for these companies. And I believe our input into that is one of the main reasons you see sorrel now as a mainstream beverage,” he reasoned.
VIRGINIA DARE IS HEALTH-AWARE
Of course, with such an expanding line of products for consumption, the company has to be keenly aware of all health protocols and guidelines. Andrea Dixon, product and business development manager, outlined Virginia Dare’s strict monitoring of health maintenance. “We do understand the concern of our customers as it relates to additives and health concerns. Therefore, what we do as a team at Virginia Dare is that we’re strong on product development and research.” Prior to any product development, quality, integrity and sustainability in the internal process are monitored, and keen attention is directed to procuring raw materials and packaging material. “[We] guarantee the healthiness of our product by doing routine testing, whether we’re using the Scientific Research Council or we’re using the Jamaica Bureau of Standard as it relates to our nutritional panel and also the types of ingredients that are being used,” he continued.
In addition to pacifying our health concerns, Dixon also stirred some excitement for the prospect of further product expansions. “The short answer to that is, yes, definitely – we seek to understand what our customers’ needs are, and we know that our customers’ success is directly related to our success, therefore we aim to meet or surpass our customers’ needs by expanding our brand as the customer demands it,” he shared.
“In our company strategy, we are very philanthropic.”
Desmond Campbell, general manager and financial controller, highlighted the social/community contribution that Virginia Dare Jamaica Limited makes to our island. The company plays a big part in the mentorship programme at Teen-Challenge Jamaica (Jamaica Youth for Christ). They participate in and support Father Ho Lung’s Missionaries of the Poor initiative, and also participate in outreach ministries with churches all over Jamaica. The company is also involved in a programme directed at finding and developing young athletes to professional standards. They also work in tandem with Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association and provide affordable packaging stock for small distributors. “We take pride in those because we believe in giving back to the country and we believe in nation-building,” he proudly stated.