Remember those days? Who could forget? The humble Jamaican Patty (JP) lunch was staple of the working class and students. Acceptable product quality, operational excellence, and Jamaican masses intimate with their hot, spicy JP guaranteed Tastee’s business success. Not quite Food of the Poor (if you know what I mean) but, food for lower-middle and lower socio-economic groups. A marketer’s dream. A basic product, high customer-based brand equity, even higher demand, and precise market segmentation, targeting and positioning. Everything nice!
But that was then. Fast forward to August 2014. Helloo Alexander Solzhenitsyn! In Jamaica things are nearly as bad as your August 1914. And the once humble JP, having fed so many on almost every school campus in Kingston, from inner city basic to UWI, has learnt the term upward social mobility. No longer content with humble status JP has repositioned itself as gourmet, and migrated uptown with appropriate pricing. But neither the product, nor its packaging has changed, raising issues of value. Can you imagine 5 patties, 2 danish and a cup cake for J$1025!!! Where? Uptown Manor Park. Yeah, JP is now for rich people. So what must poor people do for lunch?
You know, it seems to me that although JP has been on campus for so long he still hasn’t learnt about demand formula: your own price, the price of substitutes, complements etc. Neither does he have a sense of Jamaica’s new patriotism, food security and healthy eating. Check this: one beef patty now costs J$125, while a 5-pack of ripe bananas from the other JP (Jamaica Producers) is J$100. Back that up with a water coconut, including jelly, and you’re a true Jamaican lunchtime patriot! No imported flour, shortening etc. etc. Yeah mon. Jamaica nice!
So what’s this now about competitive positioning? Ask JP what they have done to their name sake: for while one JP is busy exalting himself the other JP has adopted the original JP’s positioning, and, going one step further, engaged intensive distribution to disrupt the lunch market.
So what’s the future of Jamaican Patty? Well, having exalted himself, JP must remember that Jamaicans can’t afford gourmet every day. So how about quantity demanded? I’ve got no data. But you may have heard of the dread ordering “one patty in 2 bags!”
Herman D. Alvaranga is a marketing and sales strategist.