Nigeria: Snack food company targets health-conscious consumers

A selection of snacks produced by Bonita Foods

Bonita Foods, founded in 2017, is a Nigerian company that produces a variety of snacks from fruits, nuts and vegetables. Baked coconut chips is its most popular product. Founder Winifred Isichei (35) answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

We all love snacks but often end up feeling guilty after binging on tasty but unhealthy treats. What if it doesn’t have to be that way? At Bonita Foods, we have reimagined snacking by creating healthy and delicious, low sugar, plant-based products that not only taste good, but are good for you too.

2. How did you finance your startup?

My background is in finance; before starting Bonitas Treats, I worked for 10 years in various roles across financial services audit, central banking and financial advisory. I used my savings as initial capital for Bonitas Treats when I started it in my kitchen. Two years later, after the products had demonstrated a measure of traction and acceptance, I raised some funds from family, friends and VC investment firm Consonance Investment Managers.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

It would go towards expanding factory and distribution capacity to serve our immediate local market. We would also expand our business into North America and Europe where the demand for healthy snacks like ours is much more advanced and significant. We would also invest in creating additional innovative products.

Winifred Isichei

4. What risks does your business face?

The top three issues on our radar are:

  • Changes in consumer tastes and expectations as they become more health-conscious: Our ability to respond innovatively with the right products to meet the growing demand.
  • Regulatory compliance: The industry is heavily regulated locally and internationally. We anticipate that maintaining compliance would become even more complex as we expand into new markets.
  • Cash management: As we scale our operations, effective cash management is critical to avoid failure.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

The most effective approach by far has been to get the products in the mouths of prospective customers. We also conduct a lot of education on our products because they can be used in different ways: from eating them right out of the bag to combining them with yogurts and healthy ice creams. Activation events are useful as well as basically any other ways to get people to try them.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

There have been many along the way, including getting into big retail chains. But perhaps getting our foot into international markets (North America and Germany) ranks up there right now.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

We created a product for the lower end of the market but did not get the pricing right for this segment. We assumed that our health benefits would allow the product to be sold for a higher price. It didn’t work. The distributors saw the product as too expensive and were unwilling to carry it. We eventually had to make significant adjustments. It was a costly mistake but we will never again underestimate the importance of market research.

Bonita Foods founder Winifred Isichei’s contact information

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