Our Jamaican customers in particular may be aware that, in recent years, Tropical Sun have been at the centre of a debate revolving around Jamaican foods. Whilst the conversation has many threads, the focus on Tropical Sun has related to our founders’ British-Indian backgrounds, and in particular, the notion that their racial origins might make them unsuitable to run a company selling authentic Jamaican foods.
A recent article published by Vice attempted to bring together some of the conversation’s threads, but in our view, was not sufficiently balanced. The article’s author seemed to be motivated by good intentions, clearly made considerable effort with her research and asked us some good questions in preparation for her report, but in our view, fell short of providing truly useful analysis of the situation.
Below, we’ve listed 3 key disagreements with the article. There are certainly more that we could add, but we don’t expect that anyone wishes to read a full-blown essay.
We appreciate the author's efforts – and support her right, and that of others, to question and criticise Tropical Sun. Diversity of opinion and perspective is no less important than diversity of race, gender and age. If, once you have read this blog, you have any questions or feedback, please do get in touch via our contact form.
Criticism 1: The article’s title
As many will be aware, ‘free media’ outlets such as Vice make almost all of their profit by selling ads and customer data to corporations. The more visits Vice’s website receives, the more their ads are viewed, the more customer data they gather and sell – and the more profit they make. In order to generate more visits to their website, companies such as Vice have a tendency to write overly exaggerated, triggering titles, which have come to be referred to as ‘clickbait’. The article’s title: “Why People Are Boycotting One of the UK's Biggest Caribbean Food Brands” is at a minimum an expression of lazy writing, at a maximum, intended to stoke outrage to generate more clicks and ultimately more profit.
Whilst there have undoubtedly been some customers who have suggested Tropical Sun be boycotted due to the racial origins of our founders, the vast majority of people know better than to engage in this type of closed-minded thinking. The author makes no attempt to question such modes of thought and through this glaring omission, perhaps inadvertently gives credence to it. Vice should – and likely do know better, but those clicks are seemingly just too enticing.
Criticism 2: Comments on the racial makeup of Tropical Sun’s website and social media
The article states that Tropical Sun’s “website and social media accounts almost exclusively feature images of black people, many of whom wear Tropical Sun aprons.”
The photos featuring people wearing aprons (such as this and this) are mostly from our factory in Central Village, Jamaica. We’ve made a point of making these photos public in response to rumours that we do not produce foods in Jamaica. Our website and social channels reflect our foods, community projects and the events we are aligned with. Whilst we do offer foods from many countries worldwide, our origins are with Caribbean and African foods, and so our customers and staff are largely made up of people from those communities, and consequently, so too are our website and social channels.
That being said, we do take this point on board and will look to show a wider variety of racial backgrounds across our brand channels..
Criticism 3: Important gaps in analysis
The article does help to debunk a number of false rumours about Tropical Sun, pointing out that:
- Our partner factory in Central Village, Jamaica employs over 100 staff from the local community (the true number is nearer to 200 full time employees and another 200 indirectly)
- Our UK staff includes many employees from Caribbean and African backgrounds, including several in senior positions
- We were the victims of mistaken identity when an unaffiliated London-based shop that shares our name was found by the Food Standards Agency to have substandard hygiene
What the article fails to do is draw the obvious and essential conclusion that fake news about the company played a huge part in fueling the existing tensions. At no point does the author seem to question the reasoning of the disgruntled people she interviews. Had they heard and perhaps believed any of the fake news? Did they still believe it now, despite it being proven fake? These answers were seemingly not sought – and so these important truths about the causes of the tensions were not found.
Regardless of our disagreements with the article, we thank the article's author for taking the time to look into the situation, and invite her, and anyone else with questions or feedback to our London offices for a more in-depth conversation.
Our love and thanks to our customers and skeptics alike. We are all one under the sun!
If you’re keen to know about the situation, or Tropical Sun in general, we recommend visiting the following pages:
- BBC Radio West Midlands feature on the fake news surrounding Tropical Sun
- Our mini-documentary on our ackee production process, featuring our partner factory in Central Village, Jamaica
- A history of our Great Taste Award wins (28 awards since 2009!)
- A blog detailing one particular instance of fake news, where we were falsely accused of having fallen afoul of international health and safety guidelines
- A blog detailing a case of mistaken identity, where an unaffiliated London-based shop that shares our name was found to have substandard hygiene
- A blog detailing some of our community projects