Caribbean islands are known for having a harmless but heated rivalry over the production of hot sauce. The diverse condiment, often called pepper sauce, can range from a chutney-like mash to a smooth, liquid fire, depending on each island’s tastes and traditions. In Belize, Marie Sharp is synonymous with the fiery sauce, and with over 30 years in business, she is considered a homegrown sensation.
Before starting her company, Marie worked as an executive within the financial sector. In her spare time, she grew and sold peppers from her farm to a local distributor. However, what started as a hobby, quickly blossomed into something more.
“This company really happened by chance”, shared Marie. “I was supplying more than the buyer needed, so I decided to start making a pepper mash with the surplus.”
By 1981 Marie’s home creations had become so popular that she decided to turn the operation into an enterprise, and with the help of family and friends Marie Sharp’s Fine Foods Limited was established. The company now employs 25 people and manufactures an assortment of habanero pepper sauces, tropical jams and jellies, seasoning, and fruit squashes for the local and international markets.
Marie Sharp’s major customers are in Japan and the United States. The company also exports to China, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, and South America. Marie believes the reason for her export success lies in the secret of the sauce itself.
“I never really created an export strategy for my company, most of my clients are customers who came to Belize as tourists and tasted my products. If they liked it, they would take back a few samples with them and from there the orders would start coming in.”