A Cape Town-based industrial blades supplier, Renlaw, is seeing growing demand for its cutting tools coming from food processing and packaging operations on the continent, according to the company’s director Mikko Brunner.
“Over the past two years we have noticed a rapid increase in demand for our products from African countries due to the growing popularity of formalised food production and packaging,” he said.
“We also deal a lot with machine manufacturers – so people who manufacture the packaging and food processing machinery – and their market has grown substantially in Africa. Before, a lot of them were exporting more to the United States or Australia. Now they say [interest from] Africa is growing enormously.”
These companies, added Brunner, are generally struggling to source their cutting tools and equipment in African markets outside of South Africa. As a result, Renlaw sees potential to be a first-mover in supply. “It is sort of whoever gets in there first, gets the work.”
The business was founded in 1985 by his father, Walter Brunner, who started by sharpening milling tools, such as drill bits, out of his garage. Renlaw has since grown into a manufacturer and supplier of specialised cutting tooling – supplying blades such as those used in the engineering, printing and food processing and packaging industries. One of the company’s clients is In2food, which does the processing and packaging for Woolworths’ prepacked meals.
And with growing export demand coming from African countries, the company is planning to set up an office and sharpening station in Johannesburg to better target the continent.
“We currently export both directly and through agents to Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique – and plan to set up a satellite office in Gauteng to assist with our African sales,” he continued. “It is a lot easier from Johannesburg than from Cape Town.”
While Renlaw does have to import some of its raw materials, Brunner explained the company is benefiting from the depreciation of the rand against the US dollar – both in terms of exports and supplying the local South African market. The rand has fallen by over 25% in the past 12 months.
“It’s awesome – you don’t hear that very often. The weakening rand has done us a favour because most of our opposition is selling imported blades. Our [imported] material makes up maybe 5-10% of our finished product, whereas they are importing the complete finished product and are getting nailed by the rand. So it makes us a lot more competitive in the market.”