If you were Levi Roots you might feel mildly unnerved that 30 year old Jemal Peters or ‘Big J’ as he more commonly answers to, is enjoying such an excited and positive response to the launch of what is unquestionably the most refreshing addition to the food condiment industry since Levi faced the Dragons.
Emerging amongst the top five best selling products during Selfridges ‘Meet the Maker’ campaign at their food hall where Big J’s Kitchen is stocked, the brand which Selfridges buyer Adrian Boswell describes as
“a staple on our Oxford Street shelves, as well as in Birmingham & Manchester Trafford,”
is receiving acclaim for its combination of quality, taste and marketing appeal.
From humble beginnings, Jemal came up with the concept for a food brand which incorporated his love of food and was inspired by the London youth street culture which defined him.
“I was fed up of working for other people, I wanted to make something happen for myself.”
Launching in 2012 initially selling door to door from the boot of his car, investment followed in 2015 along with distribution through Hider, and the brand has gone on to enjoy national success with business guru and Dragon’s Den star Sarah Willingham calling Jemal in to implement a six-month resident pop-up shop menu in the three London restaurant venues she owns alongside JJ Goodman and Raymond Blanc.
Having faced his own challenges as a young man growing up in South London’s Tooting, father of one Jemal was acutely aware of the issues which face many young people growing up in some of the UK’s most deprived boroughs. Today a portion of Big J’s annual profits go into his OR? Project, which is all about helping young offenders or young people at the risk of offending, to get into the world of business.
“After getting into trouble myself I spent time working with young offenders, going from a sessional worker to manager. I learnt there were many different reasons why young people offend and also that if they transferred the same skills they used whilst offending, they could be extremely successful in many different legitimate fields of work,”
“It has not been easy, but my passion for what I do is authentic. Building a commercial food brand which is stocked across five major chain stores by the end of 2016, is only part of my mission. I’m here to illustrate to my generation that regardless of where we start out, with hard work anything is possible- and it’s never too late to start over.”
Currently in talks with major supermarkets around the stocking of the five products in the range which include ‘Bangin Hot Pepper Sauce’ and ‘Berzerk Jerk Sauce’, Jemal is keen to hear from both independent and national stockists keen to spice up their product range and tap into what the entrepreneur describes as the “new generation foodie market.”
With a staunch following by customers and industry influencers alike, the ascent of ‘Big J’ who went from young offender to supermarket success, has just begun. Leaving a legacy in his wake even richer than his apricot Dip N Glaze sauce.