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A Simple Trinidadian Family Recipe Turns Into a Successful Business Ready for the Global Market

Sharon Chautilal, Director of Habanero Pepper Sauce Company Limited.

Habanero Pepper Sauce Company Limited is a small family owned business operating out of Claxton Bay, Trinidad under the leadership of Sharon Chautilal.

Chautilal worked in an equipment company for 18 years as the Administrative Manager before leaving the corporate world to pursue her passion as well as life balance through flexible hours that would allow for more quality time with family and other personal interests.

Her family always had a little “rum shop” in Claxton Bay Village that sold appetizers with a home-made pepper sauce that her mother made, which became a favourite condiment.

Chautilal has fond memories of helping her mother in making the pepper sauce. “My mom would go to the market and individually handpick select the best peppers. She would then make a small batch of pepper sauce with freshly prepared ingredients resulting in a flavour that was always on point. It was also something that she loved doing and I truly believe that she channelled her positive energy and love into the product as with everything else that she put her energies in.”

The growing demand from customers, their friends and their family with whom they had shared the pepper sauce could not be ignored. With her mother’s blessing and a promise to always be true to the recipe and the quality, Chautilal set out on her journey of making Habanero Trinidad Pepper Sauce, the first traditionally made pepper sauce to enter the market.

She took some time away from Trinidad to develop her business plan, drawing inspiration from great companies such as John Deere, Honda, Yanmar and others such as Heinz, Tabasco, Coca Cola, Cadbury, Levi, etc. that she always admired. “I read business books from people I admired – Richard Branson, Sam Waltons of Walmart and Elon Musk. I saw no reason why a bottle of pepper sauce could not be marketed the same way, for example, as the best bottle of perfume in the world. As long as you remained true to quality, the sky is the limit.”

With the help of an advertising firm, Silverpin Design Concepts, which understood her vision of wanting to add flavour to life in every way possible, they set out together to design a simple but effective label that would showcase the main star of the show – the pepper sauce.

The consumer had to be drawn to the product itself and come up with their own relationship with the pepper sauce. Chautilal did not want a distraction such as a mascot, cartoon or anything too artistic to take the attention away from the sauce itself. In her words, “we are going to revolutionize the pepper sauce industry and build a strong brand”.

At the time, there was no premium pepper sauce in the local market. “We were the first to introduce gift editions. It was the perfectly packaged gift to give to employees, visitors, friends and families for Christmas. Since then, we have tried to have something innovative each year as customers are excited to see what we come up with.”

This journey also led her to develop a strong supply chain by working with farmers in developing good agricultural practices to consistently harvest first grade peppers for the best quality pepper sauces; thus, remaining true to her promise. The peppers are still hand selected and sorted, and sun- ripened, and only fresh ingredients are used. “We absolutely do not use any colouring, artificial preservatives such as sodium benzoate, artificial flavours or thickeners. We make small batches and maintain a good positive energy while we work, always conscious of the end user.”

It’s all garden fresh and they have remained true also to the company’s mission statement of ‘Adding Flavour to Life!’

After six years in business, and facing many challenges including a downturn in the economy and financial constraints, Chautilal has remained focused on her dream of making the best tasting pepper sauces possible and marketing them internationally. She has taken some baby steps in achieving this already as the products are available on the company’s e-commerce website and orders have been shipped all over the world, including the USA, South America, Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Her latest achievement has been a collaboration between Habanero Trinidad and the iconic Calypso Rose to launch a Calypso Rose “Fire Fire” Scorpion Pepper Sauce which was successfully launched for Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival 2019.

She has also been collaborating with a New York Chef Jonathan Scinto, who has appeared on the Food Network series Chopped. Habanero Trinidad is one of the sponsors of Chef Jonathan who is participating in the World Food Championship, the largest food festival in the USA sponsored by Walmart in Dallas this year.

What’s next for Habanero Trinidad

With the assistance of Women Empowered Through Export (WE-Xport) programme, Chautilal hopes to fully leverage their expertise and assistance to strengthen her marketing and export strategy in establishing a global presence.

WE-Xport is designed to support Caribbean women in business to start exporting or increase the exports of their products and services.

Chautilal’s attitude in life is you either win or learn. To the other aspiring female entrepreneurs who are letting fear hold them back from pursuing their dreams, she said boldly: “Do it scared! Fear is there to make you cautious, not stop you.” (Caribbean Export Development Agency)

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