Remember all the fuss about Jack Charles' Land on Krooman Lagoon in a reserve area? Well it went to the court where it was determined that government owed Charles millions for putting him out. That matter is still unsettled, but Charles has been moving forward with his plans to build a plant that produces potato chips, and done so on his original piece of property which abutts the area in dispute. So that matter now aside, we wanted to see how the chips thing was going after we saw a product called Mr. Crisp on store shelves. We found out more:..

Jules Vasquez Reporting
Just looking at this slick packaging you might think these Mr. Crisp potato chips are foreign made, a competitor for Lays and Doritos.

These schoolchildren who we found digging into free samples on the street thought the same thing.

But the Mr. Crisp brand - is made right here in Belize at this factory on the Western Highway.

Jack Charles of Extra House fame is the producer:

Jack Charles, Businessman
"This will be the first product of this kind in the country of Belize manufactured locally but it's going to compete with international product."

He's been putting together the factory for over a year but it's been operational for the past nine days.

Jack Charles, Businessman
"We drop the potato in a barrel, in a bin and it moves from there to the washing area and it moves from there to the peeling area and after it gets peeled we check it at the inspection table. All the bad potatoes are then moved out. It continues from there and goes to the slicing area, after it gets sliced, it stays in a machine where it washes the slices and try to take out all the possible carbohydrates and starch out of it and it continues in a drying process and then it drops in a fryer. It is an automatic continuous fryer, it fries between 40 - 45 seconds and continues to the equipment where it vibrates out all the oil and after that it continues to the seasoning and flavoring area where the chips gets flavored then after that it goes in the packing area. It then drops in a bin and goes to the conveyor, then to the automatic weighing scale which weighs it completely to exactly 30 grams or 85 grams depending on what size we are producing and then we pack it in the boxes."

The whole process, excluding the cool down cycle - takes about four minutes - and he can produce about 25,000 bags per 12 hour shift. It's an impressive, efficient operation with equipment from Taiwan, Japan and the USA.

The bagging area is the most impressive, it is computer controlled and can be adjusted to bag any size.

Surely, it's no Mickey Mouse operation.

Jack Charles, Businessman
"I am definitely catering for the domestic market to start with and of course those 9 Caricom countries that we have because this product is going to be more benefitting for them as duty free status that we have with them. And on the domestic market I am more depending on the kids, the teenagers and of course chips is basically for everybody, each and every person loves chips."

Proof of that is the four containers of imported chips that come in monthly:

Jack Charles, Businessman
"Well the volume of chips that come into Belize from Guatemala, Mexico and US, i would say at least like 4 containers a month that comes into Belize, but looking at the price and the quality and the quantity that I am giving in the bag, I hope I am definitely going to start with at least 50% of the market share to start with."

And to make sure he competes against those imports his price point is lower:

Jack Charles, Businessman
"Looking at the price structure first of all other chips in the market are 28 grams, my chips are 5% more quantity in the bag that is 30 grams and they retail in the market for $1.00 and in some gas stations for $1,25. My chips if the customer or shop keeper choose to keep up the mark-up up to 25% they can retail it for $0.79 each bag."

And if potato chips aren't your thing, Charles says this same outfit can produce a variety of chips

Jack Charles, Businessman
"At this particular assembly we can do potato chips which we are lunching, we are already a distributor in the market; 5 different flavors which are sour cream and onion, barbeque, chili and cheddar cheese. Those are the 5 flavors which are already on the market; 30 grams and 85 grams. Next week we will be producing some corn chips; those are like unsalted and flavored ones and then we have like 8 more different kinds like the flour chips; onion rings, we are going to produce 8 different shapes."

And Charles is no slouch at business he's one of the largest wholesalers of groceries in Belize and he has a plan for this one too:

Jules Vasquez
"How will you avoid the pitfalls that plague so many well-heeled investors with good ideas and good equipment, but somehow their businesses ends up winding down in Belize?"

Jack Charles, Businessman
"Well first of all I would like to say is that most of the companies that start in Belize they try to involve the banks. As far as I am concerned I didn't involve the banks. I have studied the market already; the amount of chips that comes to Belize and the Caricom countries - which have the plus on that - they are going to import from Belize and it's going to be duty free for them so hopefully things are going to work out good."

He's gotten a good start - because today word on the streets from these savvy consumers was that he's unto something good.

In addition to his commercial launch, Charles will be distributing five thousand free bags of chips to primary schools countrywide every fifteen days. He stared in the city today with holy Redeemer, St. John's Vianney, St. Ignatius, St. Joseph, St. John's Primary, St. Mary's Primary, Queen Square Primary and Salvation Army.

He has a list of every school in the country, and different ones will be serviced every fifteen days. Presently the potatoes he uses are imported but Charles has invited in local farmers to see the type and size of potatoes the machines and they should be supplying him in 8 months.

He also plans to starts making frozen French fries in 6 months.

Channel 7