This year marks 95 years since the GraceKennedy Group was founded. Starting life as Grace, Kennedy and Company Limited in Kingston, Jamaica, in February 1922, the company has survived many challenges over the period to become a name which Jamaicans – at home and abroad – can truly be proud of.
Founded by Dr John J. Grace and Fred William Kennedy, who both worked for Grace Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of W.R. Grace & Company of New York, GraceKennedy in its early days was involved in the sugar industry, and the importation of products, chief among which were salt fish and fertiliser.
This was at a time when other companies and the government of the day were looking to the mother country – England – for economic solutions. The company broke with tradition and pursued business opportunities in new exciting frontiers such as in the United States of America and Canada.
Establishing the philosophy ‘Take what is good for Jamaica and make it good for GraceKennedy’, throughout the years, the company has sought to make itself a partner in Jamaica’s development – with government, its shareholders, employees and with the wider community.
The company’s emergence coincided with the global recovery from the devastating World War I a few years earlier. Bouyed by a combination of entrepreneurial spirit and national pride, GraceKennedy pursued interests in importing, exporting and insurance, and steadily established its distribution network throughout rural Jamaica.
During this time also, the company developed a tradition of rewarding hard work and loyalty of the ‘small man’ – becoming perhaps the first company to offer shares to its employees in 1924. The adoption of accounting practices of the highest international standards has served GraceKennedy well.
Throughout the many decades of its existence, GraceKennedy has been involved in most aspects of Jamaica’s economy, such as the manufacture and distribution of a range of foods and soap products, salt, and motorcycles; shipping; contract farming; banking; insurance; investments; and money services, among other enterprises. By earning from multiple sources, the company has been able to survive and do well even during difficult times..
Committed To Jamaica
In 2012, GraceKennedy, through its more than 60 subsidiaries in more than 60 countries worldwide, recorded before-tax revenues of more than $60 billion. It is considered one of the blue-chip companies on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, and the most successful local business entity in Jamaican history.
With all its success, GraceKennedy has not abandoned its roots in downtown Kingston and continues to maintain its headquarters there. As a demonstration of its commitment to Kingston, it is in the process of expanding its presence with the development of new corporate offices scheduled to be completed in late 2018. GraceKennedy thrives from the opportunities presented from its proximity downtown to transportation – by sea, air and land; as well as legal, accounting and telecommunications services. Also, by operating downtown, GraceKennedy, is among the companies which have signalled long-term commitment to the city’s renewal.
GraceKennedy has established two charitable foundations through which it channels lasting contributions to nation building. The Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, a partnership between the company’s management and staff, was established in 1979 in response to the poor social and economic conditions existing in the inner-city communities surrounding the company’s headquarters. Chief among the Grace and Staff Foundation’s activities is the GraceKennedy Education Run held annually in July.
The GraceKennedy Foundation focuses mostly on education for the long-term benefit of Jamaica, offering a range of scholarships and grants at the secondary and tertiary levels.
Central to GraceKennedy’s success has been the visionary leadership brought by Luis Fred Kennedy, the legendary Carlton Alexander, A. Rafael Diaz, Douglas Orane and the present Chief Executive Officer, Don Wehby. The combination of principled leadership, loyal staff and data-driven decision-making have developed a diversified business that today includes banking and financial services, remittances, insurance, manufacturing, retail and distribution.
The company has adjusted its focus from being a Jamaican food company to being an international food and financial services conglomerate serving Jamaicans across the globe, as well as people from other countries who share in the delight of the high-quality products and world-class services for which the company is known. GraceKennedy’s presence is not only felt in the Caribbean, Europe and North America, but is growing rapidly in Africa, the ancestral home of most Jamaicans.
Without doubt, GraceKennedy will continue to impact positively on the lives of Jamaicans as it closes in on an illustrious century.