Value Addition: the way to go!

In Mount Kenya the highest mountain in Kenya lies Shalem Investments limited. This is a growing enterprise in Meru County under the leadership of Ruth Kinoti the CEO. Her vision is to see Shalem bringing lasting solutions to the community giving healthier nutrition alternatives and increasing smallholder farmer’s income. She explains, “Since we started aggregating sorghum for East Africa Breweries Limited with support from 2SCALE it has been a joy to see farmers grow their income exponentially”.

Shalem have been aggregating sorghum, offering transport and marketing a variety of grains from farmers. Like any other business, there has been ups and downs. The lowest point was when East African Breweries Limited (EABL), the largest alcohol beverage company in East Africa, reduced the volumes of its sorghum purchases due to introduction and increase of government taxes. That was a difficult moment as Ruth narrates, “When EABL reduced its purchase volumes, was very difficult because I didn’t know what to tell the farmers who depend on the revenues from their harvest”. In collaboration with 2SCALE we were able to reach a solution in which added value was the best option to mitigate the risk of losses due to insufficient product demand.

Asili Plus porridge flour, 100 g sachet and 400 mg for Junior and Family

Value addition is an exciting opportunity for the small enterprises interested in diversifying and exploring new markets, however some relevant aspects that should be considered in order to achieve success, below some of those are mentioned:

  • starting focused and small
  • finding a concrete niche market is key to a long-term success
  • defining a solid business plan in which risks are considered will keep you on the right track

During this project,  2SCALE and Shalem went jointly into a journey of developing the added value for sorghum. In the beginning a co-creation workshop was developed, in which the Business Model Canvas (BMC) was used as the main tool. The team identified gaps in the market and consequently developed a branding, market and distribution strategy. The outcome was a re-branded porridge flour developed with particular characteristics (affordability and availability) relevant to the BoP market. According to the women interviewed, this porridge flour was delicious, smooth in the mouth and with a good smell when cooked.

Asili Plus porridge flour 400 g

For the rest of the the process, we partnered with a woman who represented the target customer that we were willing to reach for the new fortified flour product.  Her name is “Kagendo”, she is in her thirties and has two children aged 6 months and 7 years. She has all the characteristics of the customer for the Asili porridge a mother, a sister and a wife. She supported us giving constantly feedback on the newly developed porridge. The characteristics considered were not just appearance, smell, taste and thickness, but also packaging and branding development. For the packaging definition, Kagendo supported us, evaluating and giving feedback on her preferences on material, but also the Kenyan regulation that does not allow the use of plastic was considered. For branding the product the tag line “Tamu, asili yenye afya”, that in Swahili means tasty, original and healthy was used.

After the marketing and distribution strategy was developed.  The objective of this stage was to create product awareness and to reach the community. Product awareness requires deliberate effort and consistency in terms of product quality and information during the market campaigns.  Therefore, the starting point was to engage  Kagendo´s near network, which accounts for forty women. We approach and invite them to be trained, so the could later become ambassadors of the product.After the training, they were able to introduce the product, its components and develop demonstration sessions on how to make a tasty porridge.  These forty women went door to door visiting other women families with Asili porridge flour talking about the product nutritive components, and guiding on how to cook and serve porridge. After three weeks, this group of women reached 800 other women in their network and community.

In addition to door to door campaigns, collaborative partnerships were developed with other institutions like churches with the goal to introduce the product. In the community, church leaders are the gatekeepers. We engaged 5 churches and their leaders endorsed the product and sampling-tasting of the porridge was also done. It was possible then to receive feedback, promote and sell the product. This resulted in more than 1,000 people reached.

Market activation campaign at Gakoromone Market

The final strategy developed was a market activation. For this a tent was built at the market Gakoromone in Meru. There were music events, nutrition talks, and 10 brand ambassadors young women and men who introduced the product to vendors and customers in the market. It was hard to ignore them as they were wearing t-shirts, caps, and aprons branded with the Asili Plus. Over 2,000 people were reached during those market days, it was happening once a week for three weeks. The customers had the opportunity to taste the Asili Plus porridge flour and received promotional items such as t-shirts for free after purchasing more than 4 packages of the porridge.

Kagendo was happy with the final introduced Asili Plus porridge, it was affordable and met her expectations. A total of 52 retailers started the distribution of the product and stocked with repeat orders. Most of them were confident that the product will sell, “the product is very attractive with good packaging it smells good and very tasty” one of them explained.

Shalem investments is looking forward to grow its business by replicating the marketing and distribution strategy developed to other parts of the country which will probably triple its income. The women involved in the pilot will be part of the micro franchising model in which they will continue selling the Asili Plus fortified flour as an income generating activity.

Porridge sampling during market campaign

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