- Title: Entrepreneur offers packaged mix of popular Nigerian sauce.
- Date: 6th December 2016
- Summary: LAGOS, NIGERIA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BUSY STREET VARIOUS OF TOMATOES ON SALE AT MARKET
- Embargoed: 21st December 2016 10:52
- Keywords: Entrepreneur Pepper Mix Sauce Spice Packaged Mix Food
- Location: LAGOS, NIGERIA
- City: LAGOS, NIGERIA
- Country: Nigeria
- Reuters ID: LVA0025BQWUHJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Peppers, onions and tomatoes are prepared and blended together at a processing factory in Lagos, to make OmoAlata peppermix - a packaged sauce used in Nigeria to flavor various dishes.
OmoAlata was inspired by a similar sauce used in the country traditionally used to make Nigerian cuisine. The mix is used in homes mostly to prepare relish, soups or stews.
OmoAlata which means a pepper trader's child in the local Yoruba language was developed by Kasope Ladipo and her husband in 2012 to give busy food lovers living in the city an alternative to flavor their Nigerian dishes.
"Being in an urban city can be very very tedious and so it's always being something for me... how do I make my cooking, you know faster and then I always say that when I started traveling on holiday I realized that I could get you know pre-processed food to make my cooking easier. So I started wondering, why can't this be done for Nigerian food, why not, and I realized that the main reason why Nigerian products were not abroad, was because we don't get our packaging right one, and we don't follow procedures and so because of that, when we go and try and test these products they fail. So this spurred on the reason that I mean if packaging and following procedure is the only thing standing between us and doing this, then it can be done. And so research started on how we can do this. I mean we want to put Nigerian food on the global market," said Kasope.
The blended mix is parboiled and packaged when ready. It is later sold as a frozen product in stores in various cities.
Nigerians have a taste for hot and spicy food with relish and stews often made from various peppers that enhance natural flavours.
Kasope says her product also offers healthy and natural ingredients and is free of preservatives unlike many foreign spices sold on the market.
The entrepreneur started with an investment of about 3,000 US dollars from the family savings.
At first they were only able process 100 sachets a month; today the business has grown to produce 1,600 packets every month.
One pack of the pepper-mix sells for about 3 dollars and is enough to make six servings of food.
Kasope says though that Nigeria does not favour small businesses like hers with entrepreneurs facing challenges ranging from inadequate power supply, infrastructure challenges to numerous certifications required for a license.
"The reality is that the policies that are in place for small companies, for start-ups they don't work for us. The laws are not friendly towards start-ups so the things that I have to do to be able to get those regulations are more streamlined towards bigger companies," she said.
Africa's largest economy is facing its worst economic crisis in more than 20 years, brought on by low global oil prices which have slashed government revenues, hammered the currency and caused chronic dollar shortages.
This has prompted a government push to diversify sectors like agriculture instead and reduce reliance on oil exports.
Kasope also wants to make better use of Nigeria's tomatoes. The country produces 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes annually of which 45 percent perish because of inefficiency.
She argues that her value added product can help farmers market their surplus tomatoes better.
OmoAlata is found in 36 shops in the country, Kasope says it has been a learning experience and encouraging journey, she plans to take her product beyond Nigeria to other African countries and as well as to customers living in the Diaspora.
"It's really healthy, the fact that it's being processed, parboiled, all I just need to do is put it into the pot add my seasoning, add the meat and all other things that I need to put in the pot. It's just awesome, it's good it's a new... it's a very good product to use," said Eniola, a customer.
"We were trying to change the way people think about doing things. The way, you know why do I always have to go out and blend it from the start and so we were prepared for that rejection of the products you know which was very in the very initial stage. But over time, people started warming up to the idea and saying actually I have tasted it and it's as fresh as if I did it at home. So why do I have to do all these work when you know, someone else can do it for me and I will just pay a little for that extra and so right now, acceptance is super," said Kasope.
Nigerian cooking is heavily influenced by Asian seasonings and spices believed to have been brought here by traders centuries ago.
The budding entrepreneur is working to build a gastronomic pull for more clients at home and come up with various varieties of packaged mixes in future.
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