When Jamaicans reach for a wide array of the now familiar products bearing the Grace brand on supermarket and grocery shelves at home and abroad, they know that they are assured of 95 years of quality born of the passion and the exquisite taste of a demanding island people and an amazing company.
That has been a feat of no mean order.
Dr John Grace and Fred William Kennedy, on Valentine’s Day 1922 took on the ambitious task of packaging Jamaica’s favourite and most tasty food products and sharing them at their best quality, not only with countrymen at home, but also with those in the wider Caribbean and in the diaspora.
For the founding fathers, the company was birthed with a heart of love for the products, the consumers and employees, and a commitment to deliver at the highest standard and good value regardless of circumstances.
Now, just shy of a century later, the passion of those modest beginnings has grown and reverberated throughout the Group in the 16 countries where GraceKennedy has operating plants, and its wider reach to more than 60 countries around the world.
Known first for its food products that are synonymous with quality and nutrition, the Grace brand is a solid and confident declaration of the best of Jamaica that meets the taste test every time and exudes the warmth of the people who inspire its existence.
Today the company has expanded its product line to become a cutting-edge leader in financial services, providing safe, secure, convenient world-class financial services that make it possible for Jamaicans to do business easily.
GraceKennedy is often a pioneer in technological services and has introduced several innovations through First Global Bank, GK General Insurance, Allied Insurance Brokers, FX Trader, Bill Express, and through its partnership with Western Union as its exclusive representative in Jamaica and 10 other Caribbean countries.
For Jamaicans who rely on relatives in the diaspora for regular and critical financial support, their “pots can be put on fire” with the firm assurance that through its remittance service, GraceKennedy will deliver.
In the Caribbean islands, the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom, Grace is a real-life demonstration of the potential of a Caribbean island company that has attained solid international presence and respect. This is supported by strong local roots.
For small farmers in the deep rural communities, Grace is the certain hope that a reliable market is available for the choice fruits of their back-breaking labour. When GraceKennedy began producing canned items in 1959, starting with their Vienna sausages, citrus and vegetable farmers were next in line to benefit as the company quickly followed on with the packaging of ketchup, tin fruit juices, vegetables and bottled juices.
But it was the GraceKennedy agro-processing plant at Hounslow, St Elizabeth, that broadened the scope for hundreds of small pepper farmers who now have a guaranteed market for their produce. With a certain and stable market, farmers are better able to plan and to support their families from their endeavours.
But the most basic and far-reaching surety is in the high quality of the food supplied under the Grace brand. There is no second-guessing the fact that the standard of Jamaican food is the Grace standard.
GraceKennedy’s foray into banking and insurance does not depart from the quality performance of the group over its near 100 years in business.
The company sees it as its business to develop new initiatives that help its brands and advance and enhance the lives of its customers and employees.
Initiatives like the expansion of the banking facilities and the recent US$8-million investment in the expansion of the Hi Lo Food Stores not only create employment, but also give easy access to all.
For the GraceKennedy Group, caring begins at home and the company ensures that its employees are fully on-board with its commercial push, while also encouraging their fullest participation in its strong charity outreach programmes. In 1925, employees were invited to purchase shares at par. With a stake in the business, employees became owners of the promise and potential of the Grace brand.
It was therefore not by accident that this powerful approach gave birth to the Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation in 1979 and the GraceKennedy Foundation in 1982. These foundations have contributed mentoring, tutoring and also millions in support of persons in need, especially students.
Funds from the GraceKennedy Foundation have been distributed through the Carlton Alexander Bursary, while the Grace and Staff Foundation operates six homework centres, including a STEM Centre at Parade Gardens, downtown Kingston, among other programmes.
Those who live in Jamaica, are Jamaican or admirers of the Jamaican culture from afar, would have felt the unmistakable impact of its ‘Grace’. The achievements of GraceKennedy speak to Jamaica’s highest aspirations and their deepest yearning for the good life.