In 1984, while working for Cayman Airways, Captain Robert Hamaty and his wife Carlene, an in-flight supervisor founded the Tortuga Rum Company, Ltd. They introduced the first rums of the Cayman Islands, primarily to appeal as a souvenir to the growing tourist and cruise passenger business. In 1987, they opened the first Tortuga duty free liquor store and later that year introduced the now world famous Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake.
For years Carlene had baked rum cakes for special occasions, using a four-generation old family recipe. Friends in the food business encouraged her to make it part of the Tortuga line. First offered at a local restaurant, her moist delectable cake was an instant hit.
By 1990 the demand was so great that the company expanded with a bakery, making their cake the Caribbean’s first commercially produced rum cake. A custom vacuum-seal packaging machine was added in 1991. The process prolongs the cakes’ shelf life for up to twelve months or indefinitely if refrigerated or frozen – ideal for distribution anywhere in the world.
In 1997, Tortuga Imports/Tortuga Rum Cake Company opened in Miami, Florida to handle worldwide distribution, mail order and online sales. Headed by Robert’s daughter, Monique and her husband, Marcus Simmonds, the company was named to the INC5000 list of fastest growing private businesses in United States for four consecutive years.
On Jan. 2, 2012, the Tortuga Rum Company, Tortuga Imports and franchise bakeries Tortuga CRC Jamaica and Tortuga Barbados/Baker’s Choice consolidated their regional interests and united into a new international food group, Tortuga International Holdings, Limited. At the same time, Jamaica Producers Group, Ltd. (JP) an established international specialty foods group made a strategic investment in Tortuga International.
Marcus Simmonds was named Chief Executive Officer and Monique Hamaty-Simmonds the Chief Marketing Officer for Tortuga International. Robert and Carlene Hamaty continue to own Tortuga Liquors, their wholesale and retail liquor distribution business in Grand Cayman and are shareholders in Tortuga International.
Founded in 1925, Jamaica Producers Group (JP) is a vertically integrated, international food company with operations in agriculture, manufacturing, marketing and distribution. Though its subsidiaries and associated companies, JP operates the leading processor of Blue Mountain coffee, the leading producer of fresh juice in the Netherlands and Jamaica’s leading producer of tropical snacks. The company’s specialty food brands include JP (fresh produce), St. Mary’s (tropical snacks), Hoogesteger (fresh juice), and Jablum (coffee). It is a publicly traded company on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE). See www.jpjamaica.com.
The Tortuga brand is well-known by the more than 20 million annual Caribbean tourists and cruise ship passengers. Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cakes are the #1 export of the Cayman Islands and named the 2012 “Best Cruise Souvenir” by Porthole Cruise Magazine for the eighth consecutive year. Tortuga products are sold in gift and specialty food departments and gourmet stores throughout the Caribbean and North America, in onboard gift shops of nearly 100 cruise ships and shipped to 70 countries around the world.