Ghana: Entrepreneur spots gap for better packaged local foods

An attendant stocks Meannan Foods products on shelves at the Marina Mall Supermarket. Accra, Ghana.

An attendant stocks Meannan Foods products on shelves at the Marina Mall Supermarket. Accra, Ghana.

By Sefakor Fekpe

A closer look at the journey of Ghana-based food processing entrepreneur Charity Adupong, founder and CEO of Meannan Foods.

For years, Charity Adupong’s shopping experiences were marked with disappointment as she searched for nutritious local foods in major shopping malls and retail stores. The few that were on the shelves lacked attractive packaging.

Increasingly she realised that a huge opportunity existed in providing shoppers in Ghana with well-packaged indigenous foods. She decided to tap into the growing demand.

“I didn’t like the way our markets are structured. We openly display food with flies flying all over,” Adupong explains, as she moves around one of three different factory facilities she now runs.

Only in her early 20s at the time and part of a family supported by a single mother, Adupong took matters into her own hands.

After getting the green light from Shoprite to supply them with her products, she started raising funds by saving. She proceeded to register her business and moved to certify her products with the Ghana Standards Authority, the Food Research Institute, and the Food and Drugs Authority where she also received training.

Luckily, Adupong had some experience in business before she launched what today is Meannan Foods. She had started out buying and selling second-hand clothes and anything she could lay her hands on. She wanted to attend fashion school but that dream was truncated due to the cost.

She has over the years invested in state-of-the-art machines and technology to ensure the company has packaging that can compete with imported products.

Meannan Foods offers a diverse range of products, including cassava powder, prekese (aidan fruit) powder, ginger powder, garri (a type of cassava flour), onion powder, and corn grits. Its biggest seller is Tom Brown, a high-protein, cereal-based porridge that is also affordable.

As she moves around her factory, inspecting dried cassava chips spread on racks and neatly covered with blue nets, it is clear that her sense of aesthetic extends beyond the packaging on her product labels.

“Having our processing plant close to our farmers helps us to be able to process them in time to get the best quality out of it, and also add on to the shelf life so that in the lean season there is still food,” Adupong says.

Currently, with 33 employees, the company’s strategic location in Afienya-Mataheko of the Ningo-Prampram District of the Greater Accra Region helps in sourcing raw materials from different parts of the country.

“We are supporting our small community by giving jobs to people and when I came here first we didn’t have light (power). I had to bring light. I had to bring water. Being an entrepreneur in Ghana is also being like a government, and also a contractor,” Adupong says.

“The biggest challenge of a business like mine is sourcing the right raw materials. There is this thing we say, ‘garbage in, garbage out’, so what you put in is what will come out. In sourcing it is very difficult to get the quality that we need,” she further explains.

Adupong wants Meannan to become a household name and for local foods to be just as attractive as imported food on the shelves. Her products are currently found in different branches of Shoprite, Melcom and other retail shops.

Emelia Dodoo is a supervisor at the Marina Mall Supermarket in Accra which stocks Meannan products, but a significant number of the items on her shelves are imported due to customer preference. “I think it is very important for locally made products to be given a facelift in terms of branding quality of their product to attract people from all walks of life, even those in the diaspora. And then to attract malls like Marina to restock their products and then take their brands in Ghana international. And so we have a brand like Meannan who we have been restocking their products for close to five years now because of the quality of their products and the packaging as well,” Dodoo says.

For Adupong, an increase in demand for locally packaged foods translates to real-time growth in the economy, job creation and the path to economic freedom for families.

/bird story agency