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Homestyle brings local dishes to supermarket shelves

By Sacha Walters, Staff Reporter

Wouldn't you love to go home to a hot Jamaican meal of oxtail, curried chicken or stewed pork? But, would you be willing to have it from a refrigerated package you bought in a supermarket?

"No," said student, Andre Tingle, 18, who enjoys oxtail and curried chicken. "I don't think that they can prepare it the way that I like it or as best as I can."

A local food company, Homestyle, says otherwise. They started manufacturing dishes, such as stewed peas with pig's tail, beef, curried goat, curried chicken and three styles of stewed pork in frozen vacuum packages, three years ago.

The teenager said he only visited specific restaurants to have some of his favourite dishes. "Certain food I wouldn't buy from certain places. Like curry, I only eat at my house."

He said, however, he would be more willing to sample any other chicken dish.

Claudette Tenn managing director of Homestyle, said not only the chicken dishes are popular. "You'd be lucky to find the oxtail (on the shelves)," she said about the product which has been on the market for three months.

Were sceptical

Initially, when they launched the products, people were sceptical. Some asked: "I wonder if this thing in a box can taste good?" However, when they sampled them in the supermarkets they changed their minds.

The packages serve two people and retails for over $300 in supermarkets. Mrs. Tenn said that she hopes to do fish one day and maybe entire meals.

Another Jamaican dish which has made the transition from the pot to the supermarket shelf is Ram Goat Soup mix made by Spicy Hill Farms. It is the size of an average noodle mixed with 30 grams of dehydrated ram goat meat along with other ingredients ready to make four cups of mannish water.

It retails for an average of $90 to $100 and making sure that the product maintains the flavour and smell of home-made mannish water.

"We're getting a 99 per cent positive response from people," said Mr. Lee, the owner of the company.

Local ram goat

They also produce dried thyme and scotch bonnet pepper flakes.

He said that officially they started manufacturing last year with seven pieces of machinery which were personalised for them and they only use local ram goat meat to make the soup mix, so apart from providing more Jamaicans with the opportunity to have the expensive dish, it's providing jobs for many.

Both companies are approved by the Bureau of Standards and are operating under the country's rules for food production.

Mr. Lee said that he has had numerous emails from people in the United Kingdom, Canada and America who want to purchase the product and he plans to move into 24 new supermarkets soon.

Both companies had conducted years of research as how best to produce and preserve their products. None of the products has artificial preservatives.

Other products have made the transition from being home-made to the shelf. There are popular brands of powdered, liquid and frozen coconut milk and a festival mix.

'I wonder if this thing in a box can taste good?' However, when they sampled them in the supermarkets they changed their minds.

October 27, 2006

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