MADE IN KENYA: Story of a young Kenyan lady who is trying to make a fortune from her love of spices

Photo Credit: Tuko News

Anzazi Kiti, 27, grew up in rural Kenya observing how her mother used to prepare fruits. Like any curious child, she got fascinated by the science behind traditional food preparation methods.

So she decided to do an experiment.

A few days before the end of her school holiday, she decided to make food spices from vegetables and take it to school so she could sell the product to her schoolmates. The experiment was so successful that she earned some pocket money.

And that, dear reader, is how Chibundiro, a mixture of grounded natural spices, that gives food extra yumminess, was born. Kiti’s eyes glow with excitement as she reflects about her childhood days and the money she made selling the food spices in school.

How the business started
Fast forward to 2014. After graduating from Kenyatta University with a degree in Economics and Finance, Kiti teamed up with two friends – Winnie Chiwai and Gift Pola – and started Taste Afrique Limited. Kiti is the majority shareholder of the business.

Taste Afrique Limited is the company that manufactures, distributes and sells food seasoning products called Chibundiro, a blend of natural spices containing coriander, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, onions, cumin seeds, cardamom, black pepper, cloves and natural oils.

“The company was incorporated in 2014 and that is when we decided to take this business idea to the next level. We started by operating from a house to avoid huge operational costs”

Anzazi Kiti
the proprietor of Chibundiro
First milestones for the business 

A year later, the trio decided to move their operations from the small house they were using to a bigger space that could accommodate their growing manufacturing needs. Another positive step for them was securing a standardisation mark from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS).

“The initial capital was KSh 4,800 since we had no machines at that time. We later increased our contributions and raised an additional KSh 15,000 to secure the accreditation from KBS,” she reminisces about the early days of the business.

Kiti and her partners started by packaging the food spices in plastic cans before moving to glass containers. At the start, they were targeting boarding schools but realized their products would also suit the middle-class market segment.

“We targeted a product that would fit the whole family and that is why we introduced various products to allow a wide selection based on taste and preference,” says Kiti.

In January 2016, Chibundiro spices finally got a barcode which means they can now sell their brands through retail outlets in any part of the world.

How the spices are made
The need for healthier products in every home necessitated the production of a mixture of agricultural products and natural spices that Kiti says can be a real boost to the body, and help it rid itself of toxins.

The spices can be used on any ready to eat food. Taste Afrique has three spice brands: Chibundiro hot chili, mild chili and Chibundiro. The spices are made from a variety of natural vegetables that are ground, cooked in natural spices and the oils drained. They are then allowed to cool and packed as ready to use.

Due to the changing market preferences, Taste Afrique has identified a niche market and started packing their spice brands in gift boxes that can be given as special gift packs.

Chibundiro spices are packaged in 75 grams containers selling for only KSh 200. They are currently producing 1,000 cans per month. The manufacturing plant has a capacity to produce up to 20,000 which is good as it will help them meet the growing demand in the next two years.
Business challenges
Taste Afrique was initially funded by Swiss Re Start-Up Academy for a 10% stake in the business. This enabled them to move from manual to an automated production process. The proceeds from the venture go towards helping the less fortunate in the society.

Kiti says the biggest challenge the business is currently facing is market penetration due to stiff competition from companies that have similar established brands in the market. Their biggest competitors are multi-nationals who control a significant share of the market and already have an established distribution network.

However, Kiti sees a light at the end of the tunnel. She highlights Taste Afrique’s unique selling point as their personalized attention to consumers which has gradually enabled them to improve their products. “We are developing a new distribution model in addition to deploying aggressive marketing strategies,” she says.

In the pipeline are plans to diversify into tea spices and increase the size of the product packaging.

Running the business
The company has employed 12 people who are distributed in major towns in Kenya to help in the marketing and distribution of Chibundiro spices. They are already selling the spices in the USA, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda and Germany with the help of their financiers.

As an entrepreneur, Kiti admits that the lowest moment for her is when sales are low. The highest moment for her is when clients give positive feedback about their spices. The business relies on social media platforms like Facebook for marketing and referrals.

Looking for investors

A constant headache for Kiti is poor cash flow that is affecting their growth and expansion.

“We are open to working with investors who can inject capital in the business in exchange for a stake,” says Kiti.

She says the only thing that has kept her going is the fact that she loves what she does. “I would urge anyone who wants to venture into business to invest in something that he or she is passionate about”.

Kiti is currently running Taste Afrique as a side business. She is planning to quit her job so she can concentrate on the business full time.