Wednesday 23 October, 2019

King's Specialty puts a local spin on the liqueur market

A desire to pay homage to her mother and grandmother has led one woman into the world of business.

Regina King is the owner of King’s Specialty, a beverage company specialising in the production of cream liqueurs.

The company was inspired by her mother and grandmother whose sweet hands attracted visitors wanting to dine on their Sunday lunch, black cake, and Ponche de Crème.

“My mother worked in someone’s kitchen in the bakery and grocery but they never went into business so over time I said I want to find a way to create a legacy and pay homage to the family’s name. I wanted to share with the world what I learned from them,” King told Loop.

King, who worked in Human Resources for 16 years, started the business selling Ponche de Crème and between 2010 and 2014 produced three flavours: chocolate, cherry, and cinnamon.  She also experimented with different flavours such as sorrel.

In 2016, King enrolled in the Cariri Business Hatchery programme where she learned about product testing and labeling, among other things.

She longed to take the business further but realised she would have to diversity her products as Ponche de Crème was a seasonal business.

Added to that, some customers were asking about products without eggs so that spurred her to focus on the cream liqueurs which she launched in July 2018.

Describing the liqueurs as similar to Baileys, King said interestingly, most people only associate the beverage with that brand.

“They don’t associate cream liqueurs with a local brand so I wanted them to see you could have a great quality liqueur with a local brand. It was a hurdle to convince people the cream liqueurs was possible to do but it was me just saying I am going to do this and if you had trust in what I did before then trust me to do something else,” she said, noting that she discontinued the Ponche de Crème at that time.

King educates her customers about the beverage with information on how to use the product. She uses social media to show people how to incorporate it into their meat sauce and gives them recipes for cocktails, and she did brunch at Aroma Kitchen in Woodbrook incorporating the products into the dishes. For those who really don’t understand what a cream liqueur is, she reluctantly refers to Baileys.

“People can’t make the association without it. I am not trying to be Baileys in that way but if it helps people understand then fine,” she said.

The product has been a hit with the public. King’s Specialty was sold out at the Carifesta market before the week was up and with business picking up, King left her job in May this year to build the brand.

That same month, she entered her products into the 10th International Spirits Competition in New York submitting the Qaanela Cinnamon and the Chocohlate flavours. They won the silver and bronze medals respectively.

The Chocohlate Cream Liqueur is crafted using local cocoa, milk, rum and a blend of spices while the Qaanela is crafted from an in-house blend of rum and real cinnamon, milk and spices.

“We were the only Trinidad and Tobago brand to medal at the competition. It was so surreal…you work for these things, you want it to happen and when it happens you are in shock. This product is less than a year old,” she said.

King also produces a Cherry flavoured liqueur called Cheeri and a spice medley called Licquir Brew.

She also makes juices.

“We relaunched juices which I started years ago. We do on spot sales, we use local items: oranges, mauby, and sorrel. I am always thinking about flavours, always working on flavours and exploring the export market, working on branding.”

As she grows her company, King is using her platform to help others. She trains her employees on professionalism and customer service and this year, took on board an initiative called Help a Child to Strive for which they collected $6000 in a stationary drive.

King, who is from Point Fortin, also collaborated with a Point Fortin Youth Club to assist 12 children.

“Those are the types of things we want to continue to do. I also volunteered with the NiNa programme, they do different types of initiatives to assist young girls at the St Jude’s home. I volunteered to talk about how to present yourself in the world of work. I wanted to share how to present yourself, how to dress, maintaining who you are but existing in that corporate space. I see it as a mandate to help young ladies and children,” she said.

Reflecting on where she is today, King said giving up is not an option.

“Every time I see a hurdle I say this is too hard but what is the lesser of two worlds? If I give up now what will happen? I tried to enter the New York competition before but met challenges and looked what happened. If I didn’t do this I would have no idea what the outcome would have been. You just have to keep at it. If it’s not working, then pivot, try something else, approach it differently, maybe that is not your strong suit so just shift your focus.”

You can find King’s Specialty at Upmarket, Shops of Normandie, Happy Gourmet, Tradewinds, the Souvenir Shop in Trincity Mall and Uncorked or on Instagram.

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