Zimbabwean entrepreneurs see potential in food industry

Lesly Marange, founder and CEO of Glytime Foods

Lesly Marange, founder and CEO of Glytime Foods

Zimbabwean entrepreneurs Lesly Marange and Nobukhosi Ndlovu have identified opportunities in the country’s food sector.

Seizing opportunity in the health food market

Lesly Marange is the founder and CEO of Zimbabwean health food company Glytime Foods. The idea for the business came about while Marange was working for a sugar company in Zimbabwe, where he noticed a dramatic drop in table sugar sales as consumers grew more health-conscious. Recognising health and wellness as an emerging trend, Marange identified an opportunity. His research showed that few Zimbabwean food brands were capitalising on this market shift.

Glytime introduced its first product, granola, at the end of 2018. Marange had saved around US$2,000 from his previous job, which he used to fund the initial raw materials and packaging. After preparing the family’s meals each morning, the kitchen transformed into Glytime’s production space for the remainder of the day. Initially, the company could only produce 24 units of granola cereal daily.

Food Lover’s Market was the first grocery chain to stock Glytime’s cereal, placing an initial order for three cases, which took three days to fulfil. To cope, Marange initiated a night shift.

Over the years, Glytime’s product range has expanded to more than 20 SKUs, including low-sugar cookies, rolled oats, raw honey, desiccated coconut, and a variety of plant-based vegetarian products such as burger patties, sausages, and meatballs. In Zimbabwe, these products are available in stores such as Pick n Pay, Food Lover’s Market, OK Mart, and Bon Marché.

Glytime has also expanded into neighbouring Zambia and Botswana, where its products are now stocked in several supermarkets. Exports account for approximately 15% of the company’s revenue. Marange plans to utilise the African Continental Free Trade Area to further increase the company’s regional presence.

Read our full interview with Lesly Marange: Entrepreneur braves multiple obstacles to build food company

Overcoming challenges to build a peanut butter brand

Nobukhosi Ndlovu is the founder of peanut butter producer Nutrie Foods.

Nobukhosi Ndlovu is the founder of peanut butter producer Nutrie Foods.

Nobukhosi Ndlovu launched Nutrie Foods in 2013 in Harare, Zimbabwe. At that time, she worked as an HR consultant and operated a few small businesses on the side, but she harboured a dream of commercialising the production of her mother’s homemade peanut butter.

Securing the necessary finance for commercial-scale production equipment was Ndlovu’s initial challenge. With perseverance, she obtained a loan from a microfinance institution for the first set of equipment to manufacture her products.

In the early days, Ndlovu handled all aspects of the business. She sold her car to buy a small delivery van. In the mornings she would visit the farmers’ market to purchase groundnuts, and then go to the warehouse to manufacture and bottle the peanut butter. Around 5pm, she would distribute her products to local tuck and spaza shops. The revenue from these sales funded the next day’s operations.

Getting her products into supermarkets was Ndlovu’s biggest struggle. “Producing a product is easy; getting it to market is death,” she once posted on Facebook.

Ndlovu expanded her product line shortly after starting the business. At the market, while buying groundnuts, she noticed some farmers also sold honey, which she could package using the same containers as the peanut butter. In the second year, Nutrie Foods added sugar beans to its offerings alongside honey and groundnuts.

Over time, Nutrie Foods introduced more complex products such as jam, which required additional processing. In 2019, the company began importing rice from Malawi to package and sell under its brand.

Read our full interview with Nobukhosi Ndlovu: Zimbabwe peanut butter boss – getting into supermarkets was the biggest battle