Two judges and two contestants stand smiling while holding winning certificate
Wife and husband wearing Pure Chocolate Jamaica shirts speak before a panel of judges

Jamaica sweeps the stakes at Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London

28 September 2023
ITC News

Pure Chocolate Jamaica went to the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London with ITC to explore new commercial linkages in the UK market. They won the event’s pitching competition and International Product of the Year.

Rennae Johnson is a seasoned pastry chef born and raised in Jamaica and knows the country, its farmers and community. Wouter Tjeertes has three decades of experience as executive pastry chef and chocolatier at various high-end resorts and boutique pastry shops in the Caribbean and Europe.

Together, they created the Pure Chocolate Company - a brand that makes state of the art, homegrown, locally-made products in Jamaica.

On 11 and 12 September, they went to London’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair with ITC’s Alliances for Action sustainable agribusiness initiative to represent Jamaican chocolate.

Their participation was part of efforts to grow their brand and reach new markets under the African, Caribbean and Pacific Business-Friendly programme implemented by ITC.

The UK-based event is an annual meeting point for fine food and drink buyers and sellers from around the world. Every year, over 10,000 members of the artisan food and drinks sector converge in London from across the retail, hospitality, foodservice, manufacturing, import & export, and wholesale sectors.

This industry event, designed as a food festival, is an opportunity for established and budding brands alike to get industry experts and buyers to taste and discover their latest products, and to put them on the map.

Dark chocolate, with jerk seasoning

The event ran Pitch Live at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2023 in partnership with The Great Brand Exchange, an organization that helps small brands get into retail. Pitch Live was an opportunity to get selected brands in front of an elite panel of judges and share their story.

Pure Chocolate won the competition – supported in their application process and pitch preparation by ITC and Karen Green, ITC’s UK Sales Advisor. In their pitch, they highlighted their diverse product range, their unique packaging that leverages local artists and cocoa storytelling, their sustainable direct relationship with cocoa suppliers and their bold experimentation with quality and innovation. The prize includes a pop-up store one week in the iconic UK shop John Lewis.

The jury was composed of Emma Issimdar, Buyer Gift Food at John Lewis & Partners, Freya O'Mara, Senior Buyer for Cheese at Ocado Retail, Matt Hopkins, Founder of The Great Brand Exchange and Stefano Cuomo, CEO of Macknade’s. They were unanimous in their decision and congratulated the Jamaican brand for ticking all the boxes.

Pure Chocolate also won New Product of the Year Award – International with a dark chocolate bar with jerk seasoning – a typical Caribbean flavour mixed into an innovative chocolate recipe.

‘Winning the Pitch Live and International Product of the Year awards at this year's SFFF has brought Pure Chocolate Jamaica into the UK distributors and retailers’ spotlight,’ said Rennae Johnson and her husband Wouter Tjeertes, founders of the brand. ‘Thanks to ITC and Alliances for Action for their unwavering support. We are now set to launch our products into a market that would otherwise been a much harder bean to roast!’

Annual participation in this event offers a continuity for these brands in the UK market, not only securing them more visibility and credibility, but also market-readiness and confidence to up their game and make strong linkages.


About the projects

The ACP Business-Friendly programme is funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and jointly implemented by ITC’s Alliances for Action, the World Bank and UNIDO. It seeks to improve the ability of agribusiness firms in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries to compete, grow and prosper in domestic, regional and international markets. Through the Alliances for Action approach, it promotes inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chains that value all stakeholders from farm to shelf.