Whether you’re from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Barbados, or any other Caribbean country, you’ll miss your homeland’s food if you live abroad. The good news is you’re not the first or last person to feel like this. After all, humans seek familiarity, and nothing provides comfort like having the same meals that your family used to cook for you when you were growing up. But recreating real Caribbean food recipes can be challenging, especially when you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away from home
Canada is home to a large Caribbean population. Immigrants from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and neighbouring countries have all found a new home in Canada. This influx of immigrants can be particularly credited to Canada’s welcoming attitude and policies for foreigners. Most immigrants understand they must assimilate into their new home’s culture. Thus, they’ll happily consume Canadian favourites like pancakes with maple syrup or poutine. However, feelings of home sometimes linger, prompting them to cook homemade Caribbean recipes. Unfortunately, sourcing ingredients like spices, seasonings, and sauces can be arduous. Fortunately, that has become less of an issue recently, especially with Cool Runnings Foods taking over the nation by storm.
Caribbean immigrants will be delighted to learn that a fellow immigrant started Cool Runnings Foods. Paul hails from a business-oriented family in Guyana. His father was a rice farmer, and his mother sold clothes and food products at the local market. His family would buy products in bulk and repackage them into smaller quantities for sale, giving him an idea of how to run a business. His parents did well enough in Guyana to immigrate to Canada with their young son. He knew that he needed to make something for himself to become financially independent, leading him to embark on his entrepreneurial journey.
Cool Runnings Foods is an established business operating for over 30 years, but its story comprises of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Paul’s entrepreneurial journey started as a young kid who would source barley flour and glucose locally and ship these products to Caribbean countries like Trinidad and Tobago.
He was already familiar with the Caribbean community in Toronto. Thus, he decided to export his products and also sell them locally. Unfortunately, the demand for barley flour wasn’t there because the market was too niche. While Caribbean immigrants knew the product, native Canadians and other communities had never heard of barley flour before and were hesitant to purchase it. Then came the turning point. Paul stumbled into an Indian spice shop and noticed they sold spices in bulk. More importantly, customers would buy spices in droves. As a result, he decided to focus on spices and seasonings. He would purchase spices and seasonings in bulk and package them in smaller quantities like his parents used to back in Guyana.
It’s no secret that exporting products is challenging because both the buying and selling parties must deal with bureaucratic red tape, financial intermediaries, and customs officers. The entire process is a headache and Paul was well aware of this and decided to pivot his focus on to the local immigrants.
Jamaicans were one of Canada’s largest group of Caribbean immigrants. He knew targeting them made sense because they were his ideal market. He would have a legitimate business if he could somehow get in with them. Thus, Cool Runnings Foods was born. ‘Cool Runnings’ is a common term used by Jamaicans. It’s also associated with their 1988 Olympic Games bobsleigh team, the subject of a 1993 Hollywood movie.
Today, Cool Runnings Foods is one of Canada’s largest Caribbean food distributors. The one-stop shop offers over 300 products to help people make authentic and delicious Caribbean food. Moreover, the company’s products are also available in big-box retail stores like Loblaws, No Frills, Wal-Mart, Metro, Food Basics, Sobeys, Freshco and many more. It’s safe to say Cool Runnings Foods came a long way from its inception when it was just Paul in a friend’s garage.