From Nigeria to Ghana: Cashing in on the booming baby food market

Seun Sangoleye, founder of Baby Grubz

Seun Sangoleye, founder of Baby Grubz

Africa imports an estimated €570 million of baby food every year, and this figure is projected to exceed €1.1 billion by 2026. According to the International Trade Centre, the local production of infant foods is an underexploited opportunity. In this article we highlight five West African entrepreneurs who have built baby food businesses.

1. Adepeju Jaiyeoba, Colourful Giggles, Nigeria

Affordable and nutritional baby food is hard to come by in Nigeria. Most babies will eat the staple crop that is cheap and immediately available to their families. “If the family plants maize then that is the only food the baby is going to eat,” says Adepeju Jaiyeoba, founder of Colourful Giggles, the Lagos-based baby food company. “If they plant soya beans then that is what the child will eat. The parents do not pay particular attention to the nutritional value and the mix of micro and macro nutrients that are important for children under the age of five.”

In 2020, the former lawyer decided to create a company that would use Nigerian ingredients as the basis for baby food that could compete with international brands, which make up 80% of the commercial market. She created a range of products priced from $2 to $5, targeting middle-class Nigerian mothers but also the millions of lower-income families who she says are in the “aspirational class”. Read the full article

2. Vera Osei-Bonsu, Start Right Nutrition / Eat Smart Foods, Ghana

When Vera Osei-Bonsu had her first child, she noticed that most baby foods in stores were imported and didn’t have the healthy local ingredients she wanted. So, she began making her own using ingredients like carrots, oranges, coconut, and sweet potatoes. Osei-Bonsu shared her recipes on social media, and they became popular. From this popularity, she began making cereal powders that could be prepared under five minutes. Today her two companies, Start Right Nutrition and Eat Smart Foods, specialise in producing locally-sourced, nutritious baby and children’s food. Read the full article

3. Siny Samba, Le Lionceau, Senegal

Siny Samba, co-founder and CEO of the Senegalese baby food brand Le Lionceau, previously worked as an R&D engineer at Blédina, the baby food division of French food multinational Danone. “When I came back to Senegal on vacation, I noticed that 100% of the baby food in the stores was imported, even though we have very rich resources in terms of nutrition,” she recalls. In 2018, Samba launched Le Lionceau with Rémi Filastò, a fellow graduate from agricultural engineering school. The company currently offers several varieties of organic baby purees, compotes, biscuits, and cereals, with plans to expand in the wider West African region. Read the full article 

4. Seun Sangoleye, Baby Grubz, Nigeria

Nigerian entrepreneur Seun Sangoleye founded infant food company Baby Grubz to offer natural and nutritious baby food based on traditional recipes. Using rice, sweet potatoes, fish, beans and other local products, the business produces two tonnes of baby food a month. Sangoleye aims to reach 20 tonnes a month by 2025, and to become an African-based multinational company. Sangoleye faces challenges to expand production, including logistics, infrastructure and funding. Baby Grubz anticipates strong growth opportunities via the African Continental Free Trade Area. Read the full article

5. Pascaline Nenda, Lemana, Cameroon

Pascaline Nenda, founder of Cameroon-based company Lemana, says African baby food makers have an edge over foreign producers because they understand local eating habits and their products are less expensive than imported options. She has faced her share of obstacles – especially in terms of accessing credit. “In Cameroon, the small entrepreneur fights alone. My company needs more sophisticated machinery to respond to market demands and face competition from imported labels. We must encourage banks to finance companies with potential in the sector,” Nenda notes. Read the full article