Five years ago, Nathan Patrick left a cushy job as a designer and creative director in Sydney, Australia to return to Jamaica after spending ten years away from the island. A surfer and 'beach bum' at heart, Patrick found that there were many similarities in lifestyle and culture between the Jamaica he remembered and his new home down under, and so he thought that the flavours and vibe from the island would do well in that market.
In an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer, Patrick outlines his two latest product launches — The Peppatree line of sauces and dry spice rubs, and the Kudjoe range of rums.
“I just think that Jamaica has something so special...and we wanted to reflect that essence of Jamaica in our brand,” says Patrick, who worked for five years to develop the Peppatree line, carefully fine-tuning a collection of recipes ensuring that the flavours were as authentic as possible.
“I just wanted to focus on the little details that we as Jamaicans often take for granted... sometimes we focus on heroes such as athletes and singers, but then we forget it's the simple things authentic to Jamaican culture that's so special. We wanted to make that 'essence' of Jamaica the hero,” he says, noting that while there are plans for future export of the Peppatree line, at the moment the focus is squarely on appealing to and satisfying the local Jamaican market.
“Nothing makes me feel good like hearing people tell me they saw the brand in the supermarket, and then were surprised to see that it was 100 per cent Jamaican.... things like this should be done by Jamaicans; and for me what's most important is…to make a top-quality product that Jamaicans accept, believe in and can be proud of.”
Patrick serves as CEO and creative director of the Peppatree brand, while pointing out that he has a team of designers and mentors in Jamaica, North America and Australasia who have supported the lengthy process of developing the brand which he operates through his international marketing co-operative, Matchbox Productions.
“We manufacture in Jamaica and started distributing in December 2016. Shortly we will be available in 20 shops across the island,” he said. Peppatree's range of sauces include a wet Ol' Time Jerk Marinade, Smoky and Mango BBQ and Spicy Ketchup; while the dry spice rubs are Zesty BBQ, Jamaican Jerk and All Tings.
The journey with Kudjoe rum was completely different. Patrick is the creative director of that brand, owned and operated by an international consortium of investors who started exporting the white and golden rums to Australia in late 2016. They were named after the famed Jamaican Maroon leader Cudjoe, known for reaching an amicable agreement with the British and a settlement of land that granted the Maroon people a tax-free autonomy in colonial times that the people still enjoy today.
“The brand represents a historic moment of rebellion and is named after the chief rebel with a cause himself. So the brand represents that fighting spirit...rebels that fight for the right causes. Kudjoe acts as a metaphor for Jamaica and our cultural rebelliousness... how we like to do things our own way.”
Patrick also says the rum provides a different experience in terms of its taste profile.
“It's a single-origin, single-estate aged rum that is charcoal-filtered to create a white rum. Because it's been aged, this means that unlike most local white rums that are 'young' rums, this has a certain depth of profile and intense flavour.” The Kudjoe line of rums includes Gold, Spiced and White rums. In order to taste them, however, ask a friend from down under to send some for you, because they are not sold locally.
Having moved back home and become an entrepreneur, this creative director notes that he has found the process challenging, in that the state of the creative industry in Jamaica, and primarily in Kingston where he is based, does not operate at the (professional) level he had hoped to find: “When you have an unregulated industry, it influences creatives to undercut each other's pricing dramatically to win contracts; this in turn lowers the overall standards of the industry.”
Patrick found that at times he had to shift away from his role as creative director as he underwent the long processes necessary for a startup, and that attitudes changed once people thought they were speaking to a CEO instead of a 'creative'. “I find we have a real problem out here placing value on the economic influence that creatives can offer in business, and the perception of value placed on creative output and responsibilities. I hope that one day industry standards will improve and that will change.”