Honey Bun

F rom the operation’s early days, a signature element that’s been maintained is a company- wide aim to give back to the community whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s a mindset that Michelle Chong, who founded the business with her husband 32 years ago, feels particularly passionate about. For example, Honey Bun initiated its School Days program nine years ago as a marketing initiative in which the company would increase its local profile by awarding backpacks, lunch bags, pencil cases and computers to students in need. But after the initial feedback was positive, the purpose became greater. Three years ago, a sing-a-thon element was added, in which students perform original pieces about why education is specifically vital to their future. The best compositions are aired weekly on a popular FM radio station, which delivers the messages to an island-wide audience. “I remember specifically saying, because we were exposing our business to so many young people, that we had an opportunity to make a difference,” Chong said, “so we had to associate our School Days program with a message. We started to use positive messages for school. We started to promote education and an understanding of its importance. It can’t be just about improving the business.” As for the future, improvement is the aim for all company endeavors. Chong said additional growth into international markets is the most pressing priority, with particular focus intended on those areas – London, NewYork and select cities in Canada and throughout the Caribbean region – with large populations of native Jamaicans. From there, the goal is to till new ground in places where the product is not yet familiar, but where Honey Bun can nonetheless take advantage of the positive images the island nation evokes. “Jamaica has a very strong brand, and we’ll use that to get a foot in the door of the nontraditional markets,” she said. “We’re looking to create new markets for Honey Bun, through exports and diversification of the product line. We’re very focused on our export strategy, so we’ll utilize the strengths that we have and look into whatever possibilities that brings us.” When the Chongs – Michelle and Herbert – founded Honey Bun in 1982, their collective intent was to open a small bakery in their New Kingston, Jamaica neighborhood and make it a success. Little did they know that national economic turmoil would open their eyes much wider and have the company positioned not only as a leading brand on the island located less than 600 miles from the southern tip of Florida; but one whose visions have stretched far beyond its borders. “When we started the bakery, we didn’t have any intention of going into wholesale or having much significant growth,” Chong said. “We were very happy with what we had and that was our plan.” Honey Bun traveled the small-scale path for its first several years of existence, but, when the Jamaican dollar’s value plummeted in world markets in the early 1990s, the fallout necessitated adjustment. “In 1984, the dollar was 4 to 1 (against the U.S. dollar),” Chong said, “but by 1991, it was something A Little Love in Every Bite Honey Bun provides authentic Jamaican flavor with a local heart Some companies talk about giving back. And then there’s Honey Bun.