What's Happening
From Teacher to Cou-Cou Connoisseur
Published on May 29, 2011 by BMEX
What does a Biology teacher and a Cou-Cou Connoisseur have in common – a passion for science and precision coupled with a love for nutrition.  Whatever the formula, the result is Instant Bajan Cou-Cou, guaranteed to have consistent flavor and texture each and every time. So now, Cou-Cou lovers with little time but healthy appetites can in a few minutes have their favourite meal minus the labour and preparation time.

This work is the brain-child of former Biology teacher and microbiologist John Phillips, now Managing Director of Coral Isle Foods.  While Phillips always had a strong interest in nutrition, his mission was to turn an art into a science thereby delivering consistent results.  As many would admit, producing cou-cou in large quantities with a high degree of consistency is near impossible; so the mastermind behind Coral Isle Foods took up the challenge to prove that art can sometimes get assistance from science to ensure success whenever the process is completed.
And so the journey began, from the correct portions, to controlling the element, to securing the best ingredients, the race was on to producing Barbados’ own instant cou-cou mix. According to Phillips “I set myself the task of developing a method that could be mass-produced, but soon found that I had to change the original cooking methods.  Traditionally, we would cook cou-cou while mixing, (which was particularly laborious when preparing large quantities); notably, the results were much better when we mixed and then cooked; a key to our success.

Instant cou-cou is also about speed and convenience, without compromising quality and taste. With the dry mix product, all the ingredients are included in the package, even the dried okras.  All the individual has to do is simply add water and follow the instructions. One can even use a food processor or a whisk to mix and simply place the mixture in a covered dish into the oven or microwave.  Once the instructions are followed precisely, you are guaranteed great taste each and every time.

Instant cou-cou (also available as a frozen product) is suitable for single or multiple servings and one area where it has been a hit is the School Meals Department.  The product has been successfully served across many schools on the island and has been well received.  Also appropriate for hotels or restaurants, it is making its way in the hearts of cou-cou lovers everywhere.
“This has been a labour of love,” Phillips explained.  “This initiative dates back to 1995 when the initial project folded due to inadequate financing.  We were however one of ten finalists that year in the Barbados Innovation Awards and that was the impetus behind our current success.  This award opened doors and facilities for financing that have enabled us to reach this stage.”

The journey for Coral Isle Foods has been a grueling one but as Philips explained it provided opportunity for growth and development of the original product.  “Without a doubt it has been a long process, but while we were getting everything in place, we were relooking our formula and the product itself.  The original product was what we called a ‘wet product’ which used fresh okras; this could be used right away or frozen.  While there were several advantages to this product, there were limitations which we eliminated with the dry mix.  The dry mix has a greater shelf-life and makes it much easier to export to Barbadians within the Diaspora.  We have put in a lot of work but what has kept us going is a passion for what we do, and the knowledge that others were confident that we had a good product and one which would readily go to market. They saw the potential and encouraged us to keep pursuing.  Research facilitated by the Caribbean Development Bank also indicated that the probability for success, both in going to market and being well received was high.”

Coral Isle Foods are also the producers of N’oil, a non-stick spray which is coconut-oil based. This product reduces sticking in pans used for cooking cou-cou and is an excellent local alternative in general cooking when a not-stick spray is ideal.

According to Mr. Phillips “We were always confident that the product would be a success, we had the tenacity, and our support base was strong, this kept us going, even when nothing appeared to be happening.  We refused to give up.  The surety of success inspired us and fueled our innovation.”  Look out for Coral Isle Foods and their range of products at BMEX 2011 – Innovation through Inspiration.

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