It would not be in the least surprising if the names Saymelyah and Kamadyah Yisrael were felt to belong to a pair of foreigners with Middle Eastern ancestry. On the contrary the names belong to a Guyanese born couple, married, with two children and residing at Parfait Harmonie.
The couple are adherents of the Hebrew/Israel faith. Its followers believe that they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. They adhere to the laws of Moses. Kamadyah was born into the faith. Saymelyah became a convert while in secondary school about 15 years ago. The couple worship at the Hebrew Family Cultural Centre in North Rumiveldt.
More immediately relevant than their unusual names and minority religion is the fact that the Yisraels are seeking to make inroads into what has become a highly competitive market for fresh fruit and juices. As increasing numbers of Guyanese turn to fruit as a health and wellness option, the Yisraels have decided to place their own particular brand, Juice Up, on the market.
They key to making inroads into the fresh fruit and fruit juice market is the ability to take the product to the consumer at a competitive price. There, the advantage belongs to the producer who can acquire fruit at the best prices and prepare the products at the lowest cost.
Having started their enterprise just over a year ago the Yisraels are amongst the newest kids on an already crowded block. Perhaps more to the point they buy fruit and their production method is by no means the cheapest.
In a sense it is an enterprise that preceded Saymelyah in his family. He says he grew up watching his father prepare juices and food which he sold for over 30 years at Stabroek Market. That experience influenced the couple’s decision regarding the type of enterprise that they would pursue. They are under no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead.
Currently, the Yisraels buy fruit from farmers along the East Bank and the West Coast Demerara and the Linden-Soesdyke Highway. Saymelyah is responsible for purchasing and marketing the products and has developed a relationships with the farmers that enables him to secure the best prices even when fruit is out of season. Acquiring fruit, however, accounts for much of the company’s expenditure.
Rising demand continues to impact on the cost of fruit. In season, cherry is sold at between $1,800 and $2,000 per pail. Out of season the farmers now demand as much as $5,000 per pail. In season, farmers offer pineapple at $800 per dozen. Out of season, pineapple costs $2,000 per dozen. In season, soursop is sold by the farmers at $1,000 per dozen. Out of season the price can go as high as $4,000 per dozen.
The Yisraels are well aware that if they are to remain in business they need to find ways of keeping costs down. Accordingly, within a year, they plan to create an orchard at their 35-acre plot at Rockstone.
The Yisraels have learnt the business quickly. They have learnt from losing heavily on account of being duped with rotting fruit concealed beneath a bed of sound ones. Sometimes the suppliers make good the damage. On other occasions buyers and suppliers part company over issues of integrity.
But the challenges do not stop there. Good help is hard to find, particularly when you have to manufacture 25 gallons of juice using equipment that is probably not ideal for those volumes. Once a large order is accepted production of juice will start as early as 4 am. The fruit is sorted, washed, peeled and blended in blenders. For fresh fruit packs the fruit is chopped, placed in containers and refrigerated. Blending is done using both domestic and industrial blenders. By 7 am the juices and fruit are ready chilled and ready to be taken to market.
At least five trips by car from Parfait Harmonie every day see deliveries made to customers in Georgetown, East Bank Demerara and West Coast Demerara. The runs are costly and the Yisraels say a refrigerated truck is part of their longer term plan.
Sales are modest but encouraging. Approximately 50 fruit salads and 25 gallons of fruit juice are sold daily. Juice Up’s key customers include the Rose Bud Cafe, School of the Nations, Water Chris Hotel, Top End Training Centre and Gems Training Centre. Sales are also secure through restaurants and snackettes.
When Stabroek Business visited the Top End Training Centre recently a freezer marked ‘Juice’ and containing the company’s products was in evidence.
The Yisraels said they have invested around $6 million in the venture up to this time. The next step, they say, will be to create a distribution unit in Georgetown in December to market their own product.