Fabrar Liberia Incorporated, a local food and beverages company established 2009, has gained itself a reputable status in Liberia's rice production sector; the company first venture. But its rise to strategic leadership in the rice sector also appears to urge the company to test new waters in the country's vastly underdeveloped agriculture sector.
One of the company's new ventures, the "Aunty Sugar's Tropical Jam", has a captivating taste that had consumers longing for more during last month's jam tasting fest at the Peace Café in Sinkor, Monrovia.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer (DO), Fabrar Liberia Incorporated (FLI) expounds on the vision, taste, market prospect, and challenges of "Aunty Sugar's Tropical Jam".
When did the Aunty Sugar's Jam production begin and what led the Fabrar Team to venture jam production?
Aunty Sugars Tropical Jam making began as gifts being made for friends around Christmas time. It follows a tradition from 'normal day' (before the civil war) where many Liberian households made their own jam, jelly, juices, and even butter, and gave them away as gifts.
How do you make the jam and where do you get your fruits from?
All fruits are sourced locally. The jam is made with 100% natural ingredients and the process of jam making is done in a home kitchen.
How do you get supply when out of harvest (ripe) season; let say, plum. How do you get plum to make mango jam when mango is no longer harvested?
One of the advantages of using local produce is that you make things with fruit that is in season. That means it is fresh.
For example, since Aunty Sugars' Tropical Jam is beginning as the plum (mango) season is beginning, sourcing plums is not yet an issue. But as the jam-making began, oranges and grapefruits were going out of season. We will therefore limit the jams made from oranges until we can get fresh oranges again.
We are also planning to buy and freeze large quantities of fruit for jam-making when the fruit is going out of season. This will be a good option for mangoes and pineapples.
Where do you sell your product and how much do you sell your product?
The jam-making is homemade and artisanal, it is not yet targeting a 'huge market' segment. So for now, the sales outlets are limited to Peace Café and soon to be in Stop and Shop Supermarket; perhaps one or two other outlets and online sales.
We will also supply a select group of restaurants and hotels in Monrovia. The price for now is US $5 per 6oz jar. We will soon have other sizes.
Liberian market is flooded with varieties of imported foodstuffs including jam or jelly, in what direction you are capturing consumers? What advantage do you think you product has over imported jam?
Liberians have developed the bad habit of depending on imported everything. There are many things that we can substitute right here, from the produce and foods that we have here. For example, why are we importing coconut oil? Okra? Fish?
Aunty Sugars' Tropical Jam has the advantages of:
being made from local and familiar fruits;
being made with interesting ingredients added in like Liberian pepper, or ginger, or even whiskey and cane juice;
it is competitive in price;
it has no artificial preservatives or additives;
and because it uses fresh ripe fruit. We use less sugar than many of the imported jams; and lastly, the price we sell at is competitive with most imported jam.
Your packaging materials have a mix of local product, tell me more about your packaging style.
The packaging is designed to emphasize the local Liberian origin of the jams. We will continue to package in unique ways, and look for interesting blends of fruit and other natural ingredients in making the jams.
What are your major challenges and how are you coping?
Unfortunately, right now there is no Liberian jar manufacturer. For Aunty Sugars' Tropical Jam, we may start using plastic jars, but for now we're ordering glass jars and lids from the USA. Meanwhile, we will continue to be environmentally conscious and recycle glass jars.
What are other products that the market should expect from Fabrar shortly?
Fabrar Liberia Incorporated is a holding company, meant to 'hold' other ventures in agriculture and food systems. Aunty Sugars' Tropical Jams is one of several new food products that Fabrar will be putting out.
Look out for Edina Old Time Spice Rub made from four kinds of Liberian peppers; Ora Gene Farms fresh basil, and other herbs. Also watch out for our Komoko Ice Cream, a home-made favorite from the 1990s.