Building a Legacy while Strengthening Dominica’s Agri-business Sector

A testimony of transformation and growth in agri-business in Dominica


The agribusiness sector in Dominica is a vital part of the country’s economy evidenced by the government’s focus on developments within the sector helping farmers to add value to their products from high-quality plants and increase their export potential. This focused effort has provided fertile soil for businesses like Bannis Farm Products Inc, an agro-processor, to take a firm footing that can last for generations.

Naomi Bannis-Sampson is a young investor and business operator who has been building on her father’s legacy in agro-processing in Dominica for several years. Her impact, having grown up in the business, has been palpable and she is continuing to play a pivotal role as the business expands its importance to the entire sector. IDA sat down for a Q&A with Mrs. Bannis-Sampson. (You can also listen to a companion episode of our Invitation to Invest podcast here)

 IDA: Can you first tell us your name and a bit about your business?

NAOMI: My name is Naomi Bannis-Sampson, and I am the general manager of Bannis Farm Products Inc. We are a family-owned small business involved in the production of snacks, more specifically plantain, banana, and breadfruit chips.

IDA: Now, first, tell me about the breadfruit chips. What are you putting in the breadfruit chips that make them so amazing?

NAOMI: First, we are using a different type of breadfruit from the regular breadfruit that you see around. We have a special type of breadfruit that came from the Pacific.

It is called the Ma’afala variety. That was sourced a few years ago. There was a small project going on and they got my dad involved. My dad is Adrian Bannis and I remember going to the airport and looking at the plant quarantine unit, looking at the breadfruit coming in, and then he planted it and [Hurricane] Maria passed some of them did not survive. And then some years later it started growing and that type of breadfruit stays very short, but it bears prolifically. The fruit is smaller than what we are accustomed to, but I think that has been the best variety we have used.

I think how we treat our processing; I think that also helps with the flavor or secret sauce for seasoning. We do not sprinkle salt over our product. We use a wet solution. And so that helps to kind of seal in the moisture and all of that.

IDA: So, you kind of brine it?





IDA: How long have you guys been doing this? How long has Tropical Munch been going on?

NAOMI: It has been over 20 years, of the business’s existence. I was pretty young when it started. And when I was old enough I kind of started giving more attention to the business. And so in 2019, I took over as, you know, general manager and from then, trying to bring in a younger perspective, more modern. We looked at branding and we came up with the term Tropical Munch and we started looking at different packaging, and how we can make stuff better. And so that is how we ended up where we are today.

IDA: I must say that your packaging is pretty awesome. It is pretty unique. You can see the product through the packaging. I like the fact that you have different colors for different types of chips. And there is a lot of information on the packaging. What kind of thought went into how exactly the product would look?

NAOMI: Our earliest type of packaging was clear. The bag was clear. Then there was another type that we moved into, especially with the plantain. It was some clear, but there were some parts that were colored. And that is when we started moving into the three colors. Then it evolved into a package that was completely covered, so there was no clear part. You kind of hear customers’ feedback, “We want to see the product”. When we did the new packaging design, we figured, you know what, let us try and give the best of both worlds because there are advantages to having a product completely covered in terms of its shelf life. And there are disadvantages if it is more exposed to sunlight if it is exposed. And so, we figured how about we put a window, to compromise, listening to the customers.

So that is how we came up with that. In terms of the design, I was very instrumental in working out the new design of the packaging. I remember sitting in the graphic designer and thinking of all the things I would want to see on the packaging for that type of product as well as what we have heard from our customers over the years, making sure we can try and please as many customers as possible.

IDA: What are the products that you make?

NAOMI: Well, we have the snack line but over the years we have dived into several different items. Some of them didn’t really stick or we did not you know continue with them, but I remember we used to do a pepper sauce, a seasoning pepper sauce, and you know, persons really loved that, especially hotels and those persons who were doing cooking, restaurants and so on. At one time we did turmeric powder. At another time we did coconut oil. Even noni drink.  I do not know if you have heard of noni drink. We have touched on that as well. And then flour. So again, now we are trying to ensure that our process is more sustainable and efficient and so we are looking at how can we use our waste from the chips to make a different product and so sometimes you find that when we cut the raw material;  the plantain, the banana, the breadfruit, there’s a bit left and what can we do with it? Instead of just throwing it away, we convert it into flour. That is something that we are also looking into as well.

IDA:  You mentioned that this is a family-run operation. So, talk to me a little bit about who is involved, what everybody does, and how that has been.

NAOMI: It is everyone in the immediate family, so down to my little brother, because you need continuity. We feel like he must learn as well. And so that is how it was with us. My sister and I saw my parents doing it. So, they started the business off and then you get inspired by that. And then you see the potential of the business and you want to continue the legacy. And so, it is my parents, as I said, my siblings, and then my husband.

IDA: Where is this based, where exactly? And talk a little bit about what the impact has been within the community and the surrounding communities.

NAOMI: So, we are based in Castle Bruce, which is on the East Coast of Dominica. In terms of the community, we have been able to employ a few people within the community from time to time once we are operating. And then as well as for raw materials, we would engage farmers from as far as Marigot down to the southeast, looking for raw materials. Also, we have even been looking at the educational aspect of our business. So, we encourage people if you want to learn, whether it is on the farm or in the factory, you want to see what a factory space looks like. So, for example, a teacher who wants to carry a class, we offer that type of service, but getting people engaged in seeing that type of manufacturing. I love that. I love that community engagement.

IDA: Let us talk a little bit about the actual investment and what sort of role has Invest Dominica played for you?

NAOMI: We work very closely with Invest Dominica. Some of these things I am just remembering from when I was younger and listening to my father and their conversations. In the past, I’ve heard him talk about people like Patrickson Victor, and Shayan Monelle from Invest Dominica and how they’ve assisted us in getting concessions for the business looking at machinery and equipment, our process flow, and all these different things, even in trade shows and expos outside of Dominica through them and locally, as well.  And so, this, all of this has helped to boost the business and the way we operate.

IDA: How has the relationship grown over the years, like you mentioned the participation in trade shows, how has the relationship with Invest Dominica Authority matured?

I would say that the relationship has now moved to a different party, in myself, as I said, a lot of the relationship was with my dad before. So now I have established relationships with persons at Invest Dominica. And so, it’s easy for me now to come in, ask questions, see what’s going on, what Invest Dominica has to offer, and how we can work together even when they have, as I said, the tradeshows if we would like to participate [and] what sort of support that they can give us. I feel it will continue to grow as we begin to export.


IDA: What is next for Bannis Farms [Products Inc]?

NAOMI: It is funny that you mention that because we recently had a meeting assessing our participation at the last tradeshow. And we realized that we need to go back, well not go back, but go into some new product development.

There was a dip that we used at the expo, pineapple jelly, and guacamole, which we made ourselves.

IDA: The pineapple was incredible.

NAOMI: Thank you. So, we made those ourselves and the whole purpose was to try and give a little, spin on our sampling, instead of just tasting the chips, you taste it with something. And that really took off and it took off beyond what we had expected. And so, people are now again, if you notice, we are driven by what our customers because the ultimate satisfaction has to be. You know, on the customer’s end, and we are driven by their opinions and their suggestions. So what we are looking to do now is to do some product development and some research on how we can actually come out with a new product or a new product line using the experience with the dips. So we may come out soon with a bit of a line of Dips.

IDA: I am expecting that the pineapple is going to be first.

NAOMI: Yes, yes, definitely.

IDA: I am sorry for the people who love guacamole, you’re going to have to wait a little bit. So, I’ve had your product myself. I think your product is absolutely fantastic. I love the packaging. My wife is absolutely obsessed with the breadfruit chips. So, I am super excited to see how you all are going to implement the dips and your new products. I am hoping that your relationship with Invest Dominica is one that can grow from strength to strength and can be beneficial to you as you go into the future.

Invest Dominica Authority (IDA) is the Commonwealth of Dominica’s government agency to promote Dominica as the location of choice for international investment and to assist them in establishing operations on the island. Contact us here for more information on Agribusiness and investment opportunities in Dominica.