De La Grenade Industries, a leading Food Processing Company in Grenada, has pioneered the use of nutmeg pericarp (fruit) in the manufacture of high value-added delicious products - Morne Délice Nutmeg Jam, Jelly and Syrup- which are distributed on the local market and exported regionally and internationally.
Louis La Louis La Grenade (1733-1808) was a remarkably successful entrepreneur of French descent. The Captain was one of the first free coloured men to acquire substantial land holdings in Grenada. He commanded the St. George's militia (hence his title) and occupied a position of prominence in the official life of Grenada. He owned schooners for shipping the sugar and spices he grew on his own plantations. In the course of sailing his ship 'La Louise' through the Islands, Captain Louis La Grenade offered a free trip to a Dutch missionary from the Banda Islands (Indonesia), who in gratitude gave him some dried nutmeg seeds and entrusted him with the formula for an exotic liqueur.
The family history of La Grenade confirms that the Captain owned an estate in Mardi Gras, St. Paul's, Grenada. Family lore has it that, on this estate, Captain Louis La Grenade, through association with the missionary, experimented and grew a few nutmeg trees as early as 1773. Grenada is today the second largest producer of nutmeg and mace in the world.
Sybil La Grenade, the matriarch of de La Grenade Industries and a Home Economics teacher, founded the company and showcased Grenada as a country with tremendous food processing potential through her award-winning products, which she began making from the basement of her home in a cottage industry called de La Grenade Home Products.
In 1969, Sybil, recognizing the value of research in achieving excellence, quickly forged an alliance with Grenada’s newly-appointed British food chemist. Combining his training in Food Chemistry with her culinary expertise, they created a masterpiece – Morne Délice Nutmeg Syrup. In 1990, this unique and superb product, which was being processed at the cottage industry level, became the first authentic Caribbean food product to receive the highest award from Monde Selection in Brussels – a Grand Gold Medal. La Grenade Liqueur, the flagship product of the company, which received a gold medal from Monde Selection that same year, also uses nutmeg as one of the secret ingredients in its formulation.
These awards opened many doors to Sybil La Grenade. Between 1990 and 1991, Sybil’s credibility as a businesswoman soared and her knowledge of the industry became widely recognized. She then had no difficulty convincing bankers to approve a loan for the expansion of her business which became a registered limited liability company operating under the name de La Grenade Industries.
Following the sudden death of Sybil in 1991, her daughter Cécile, a Food Technologist trained in the United States, effected the transition from cottage to commercial production, and expanded the product range to include more traditional drinks such as seamoss, mauby, and ginger drinks as well as hot pepper sauce and pepper jelly.
In 2009, Cécile continued the development of the company. The factory building was remodeled, the equipment upgraded, and the land around the factory transformed into a beautiful herb and spice garden open to visitors.
De La Grenade Industries applies an integrated economic activity model of the business based on three concentric circles: linking farmers, De La Grenade Processing facility and tourism (including the herb garden, factory tours, sales to hotels and shops, airlines, gift packages, exports).
The company currently boasts fourteen (14) products, having recently added new products to its range of offerings. These include sea moss, pepper jelly, mauby syrup, nutmeg jam, guava jelly and the flagship product, La Grenade Liqueur. In diversifying the services offered, the shop on site was upgraded to offer these products. Samples of the products are offered to visitors, and this helps them to decide what product(s) they wish to purchase. A nutmeg garden is on site and it offers the guests the opportunity to view the crops used in the manufacture of De La Grenade products.
Nutmeg is one of the most important products and many value added products can be made: nutmeg jam, jelly, syrup. The business currently purchases 24,000 pounds of nutmeg pods, 15,000 pounds of guavas and 10,000 pounds of hot peppers per year. While farmers are central to De La Grenade business model, they want to increase purchasing directly from farmers, and boost linkages for increased sales.
The fruit of a tall, tropical tree, Myristica fragrens, is the source of not just one, but two aromatic spices – nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is actually the seed from the fruit of the tree, which can grow to a height of 50 feet and live up to 75 years. Although the tree bears some fruit year round, the main harvests are in March/April and October/November.
Annual world production of nutmeg is approximately 13 million pounds. Indonesia grows about two-thirds of the world’s nutmeg, while Grenada is the other major producer. Unfortunately, extensive tree damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 dramatically reduced the amount of nutmegs Grenada has been able to cultivate in recent years.
Nutmegs grow best in elevations of 1,500 to 2,500 feet, and thrive in nutrient-rich, volcanic soil. At or close to the harvesting season, its tree branches become laden with yellow fruit, similar in size to nectarines. The outer portion of the fruit – the largest part – is fleshy, has the consistency of an unripe nectarine, and actually tastes like nutmeg. This part of the fruit is used to manufacture Morne Délice nutmeg jam, jelly and syrup.
When the fruit fully ripens on the tree, it splits open naturally, then falls to the ground where it is collected by the farmers. Breaking open the fruit reveals a lacy, scarlet red membrane that envelops a dark brown, brittle shell. The membrane is called the aril, which turns a dull red-orange when sun-dried by the harvesters. The dried aril is mace, which has a similar taste and aroma to nutmeg, but is slightly more delicate. After the mace is removed, what remains is the hard outer shell covering the nutmeg.
The nutmeg is extremely aromatic and has one of the highest amounts of volatile oil of all spices. After being dried to develop its distinctive flavor, the outer shell is removed. Nutmegs are then sorted by size and visual appearance. The largest and most intact nutmegs are sold whole, and can be found in your local grocery store ready to be freshly grated.
Relationship with tourism market
An opportunity exists for visitors to sample naturally produced items while being afforded the opportunity to tour the gardens and view the processing facility. This experience offers an added dimension to the buying process.
The most popular customers are hotels, vendors and airline caterers; however, individual customers purchase items through supermarkets, duty free shops, gift shops and the marina. Between 1993 and 1995, the 1 oz. jams and jellies were served on the breakfast trays of first class passengers of British West Indian Airways (BWIA). British Caledonia Airlines also served the jams and jellies with its breakfast in both first class and economy class between 1993 and 1999. To date, LIAT includes the De La Grenade miniature rum punch in its in-flight bar.
Visitors are given the opportunity to savor the taste of tropical fruits while touring the gardens. The nutmeg carpeted paths, the view of Mt. Gozeau Tropical Forest Reserve and the lush verdant hills of St. Paul’s all add to the tranquility of the space. Spanning two acres, the garden runs adjacent to the main company building and offers a complementary component to the processing facility.
Benefits of tapping into the tourism market
International exposure, increased sales and venturing into other markets are a few of the advantages of becoming integrated into the tourism market. With tourists supporting the items, there emerges a demand for the products that enhances publicity and increases income.
In capitalizing on partnerships, all avenues are explored. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) are corporate companies seeking to provide De La Grenade with expert advice and resources. The local farmers, supermarkets, retailers and hotels are also crucial as they supply the products to the consumers. The Grenadine islands and Trinidad and Tobago are major partners as well as they provide markets for many of the products.
Recognition for outstanding achievements
The Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce in 1989 awarded De La Grenade Industries the manufacturer of the year award. A year later, two awards were received: the Grenada Independence Award and a gold medal for best liqueur from the Monde Selection in Brussels. The nutmeg syrup also received a Grand Gold Medal and remains the only Caribbean food product to receive this award from the Monde Selection.
Sources: Presentation by Monique Allyson Noel, Manager, De La Grenade Industries, Grenada-Agro processor, at the 1st Agribusiness Forum organised but CTA/IICA and partners in Grenada in November 2014.
Kevon Rhiney. Study on Agribusiness Development – Strengthening Agritourism potential in the Caribbean. July 2015.