Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited – A Slice of Jamaican Culture

Business View Caribbean interviews representatives of Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited for our focus on Best Practices in Manufacturing

For more than half a century, Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited (DIJL) has been providing high-quality dairy products to the Caribbean and beyond. The company was established in 1964 as a joint venture between the New Zealand Dairy Board and a group of Jamaican distributors.

Radcliffe Walker, DIJL’s general manager, explains, “The Company started producing canned cheese in 1968, the product appealed to a Jamaican audience because they were able to formulate it for a unique Jamaican taste.” Canned cheese was an ideal product for the Jamaican market because it is shelf-stable. “The cheese is produced in a can, you actually have to open the tin to get to the product,” says Walker. “That means that it can be stored at room temperature for long periods, one of our key value proposition. Truly convenient for areas where you do not have refrigeration or when there is a natural disaster such as a hurricane.”

Over the years the company has seen a few changes – the New Zealand Dairy Board eventually became Fonterra Co-Operative Group Limited, and in 1996, GraceKennedy purchased shares from all local dairy distributors creating a 50:50 joint venture between Fonterra and GraceKennedy.

DIJL also expanded its product line to include a range that offers much more than just canned cheese. Today, the company manufactures milk powder, yogurt, and 10 kinds of cheeses through its six separate brands: Tastee Cheese, Crest, and Cheder, which all produce cheese; This Is Really Great!, which produces yogurt; Good2Grow, a kid’s line that offers yogurt and powdered shakes; and finally, Anchor, DIJL’s powdered milk line.

They also recently inked a co-manufacturing deal with NESTLÉ to produce the company’s Everyday Milk Powder and are currently exploring additional products. DIJL, whose factory is located on Washington Boulevard in Kingston, plans to branch out to provide a more diverse line, including more cultured products. Currently, they are developing a sour cream, drinkable yogurt, and a cream cheese.

“We want to be able to spread our risk, especially since a significant percentage of our sales is generated from canned cheese,” says Karis-Ann Rhoden-Gordon, DIJL’s Business Development Manager. “The company’s performance is heavily dependent on our cheese category, so as a result, we are diversifying our product portfolio to include a wider range of dairy offerings to meet our consumer needs. These three products, while they are currently sold locally under imported brands, are the first to be commercially produced in Jamaica. And based on our market research, these products present great opportunity for growth.”

Being able to provide a wide-range of dairy products locally is a priority for DIJL. “I think it comes with a certain level of pride when consumers can access world-class products manufactured right here in Jamaica,” Rhoden-Gordon shares. “The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted why we as an industry need to be more self-sufficient in the event of supply chain disruptions.”

DIJL’s products are offered throughout Jamaica, as well as exported to the Caribbean, USA, and Canada. Products are distributed primarily through GraceKennedy to retail stores, wholesale for bulk purchases, and to food service, including restaurants and hotels.

The company also has a strategic marketing plan that involves pairing their canned cheese with its natural partner – bun. “Our canned cheese is not only our flagship product, but it’s also a Jamaican tradition… you really can’t experience Easter without cheese,” Rhoden-Gordon says. “Now, for us Jamaicans, there’s something that goes very well with our cheese – and that’s spiced buns. Over the years we collaborated with local bakeries, a partnership that has helped us to grow both locally and abroad.”

Pairing cheese with bun in retail displays helps DIJL to increase its visibility, but also gives them the opportunity to promote Jamaican culture in its promotional displays. “This provides consumers across the world a taste of true Jamaican culture,” Rhoden-Gordon says.

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