Although it sold a controlling interest of its international operations late last year, Tortuga Rum Company Ltd. remains 100 per cent Caymanian owned and is expanding its food distribution business.
Despite what some might think, following the sale of a controlling interest of Tortuga International Holdings Limited to Jamaica Producers Group Ltd last December, Cayman businessman Robert Hamaty hasn’t retired to a life of leisure.
On the contrary, Hamaty and his wife Carlene remain the sole owners of Tortuga Rum Company Ltd. a Cayman Islands company with a lot of rum cakes – and patties – still in the oven.
“We’re still 100 per cent family owned and operated,” said Hamaty about Tortuga Rum Company, adding that it has been that way since the company was established in 1984.
There have been some internal structuring changes over the years, like the establishment of subsidiary companies Island Retail Outlets Ltd., Tortuga Wine & Spirts Ltd. and Tortuga Duty Free Liquors Ltd, all which deal with various aspects of alcohol sales.
Most recently, Tortuga has taken another step to diversifying the company, adding Wholesale Food Distributors Limited to its stable of companies.
Hamaty said the new company won’t deal with alcohol at all; only food.
“Over the years, we’ve grown and we were like an octopus,” he said. “We had too many arms under one head.”
Tortuga has sold food products, including various sauces and beverages, for many years but it has recently taken on many more food brands and forming a separate entity to handle the marketing and sales of those products just made good business sense, Hamaty said.
“For starters, it’s much cleaner administratively and it makes it easier to access profitability,” he said. “In addition, from a marketing point of view, having non-alcoholic beverages under a company called Tortuga Rum Company can be confusing for the consumer.”
In the past months, Wholesale Food Distributors Limited has added several new significant brands from Jamaica: Rainforest Seafoods; Caribbean Broilers; Walkerswood seasonings and sauces; Jamaican Country Style seasoning and sauces; and St. Mary’s chips. These join brands like Tastee and Tru-Juice in the product line of Wholesale Food Distributors, whose market is supermarkets as opposed to the food service industry.
The separation of the food sales part of company from Tortuga Rum Company will have no effect on the group’s employees initially, but Hamaty said that as that company’s business grows, it will have to take on more employees. It’s also possible that somewhere down the line there might be an opportunity to enter the business of supplying the food service industry.
All of the food brands carried by Wholesale Food Distributors comes from Jamaica. Hamaty said there’s a strong market for Jamaican products in Cayman not only because of the high number of Jamaicans that live in the country, but also because of the strong historical influences.
“So you already have a head start because the brands [the company is bringing in] are already recognised by a large portion of the population,” he said.
He said that Rainforest Seafoods, which was started by noted Jamaican businessman Brian Jardim – who was instrumental in bringing Margaritaville to Cayman and who is also famed businessman Butch Stewart’s son – was one of the largest suppliers of quality fish and seafood products in the Caribbean.
In addition, he said Caribbean Broilers is one of two leading producers of hormone-free chicken products in Jamaica, along with Best Dressed Chicken.
Tortuga International Holdings
Hamaty said the many people in Cayman seem to think that the Tortuga Rum Company Ltd. is now owned by Jamaican company, but he stressed that only Tortuga’s international arm, Tortuga International Holdings Limited, had its majority interest – 62 per cent – purchased by Jamaica Producers Group Ltd.
The idea behind sale was to merge with a company that could better make Tortuga a truly global brand, he said, noting that his family had done a good job taking the brand into the United States and the Caribbean, but a larger company was needed to take it globally.
Because he already knew the principals and members of the Jamaica Producers Group Ltd. board of directors, he felt comfortable with them as partners and confident in their ability to grow the brand, Hamaty said.
However, even though Jamaica Producers owns a majority share in Tortuga International Holdings, it still has a close Hamaty family connection at the helm, with his son-in-law, Marcus Simmonds, serving as chief executive officer and his daughter, Monique Hamaty-Simmonds, serving as the chief marketing officer.
The goal is to turn Tortuga into a $100 million global brand with distribution in other regions of the world, particularly Europe and Asia. But Tortuga International Holdings will also help expand the brand closer to home. Just last month, the company opened its first store in Jamaica on the Falmouth Pier for cruise ships. The 395-square-foot Tortuga store has a staff of five and sells rum, rum cakes, sauces, packaged coffee, sweets and souvenirs.