The terms ‘packaged’, ‘convenience’ or ‘ready-to-eat’ foods refer to a very wide range of prepared foods that have been made easy to consume. There are over a thousand types of convenience foods and they vary by country and geographic region depending on the likes, tastes and preferences of the people. Bread, potato chips (French fries), biscuits and breakfast cereals are just a few of many available packaged foods on the African market.
Packaged foods are designed to make food more appealing to the consumer. Most of these foods are usually sold in either branded or unbranded packaging. Some of these foods can be eaten immediately (like bread and biscuits) while others (such as frozen foods and noodles) may require some preparation.
Convenience foods have become a big deal, especially in Africa’s urban areas. More people want to spend as little time as possible eating food or preparing their own meals. More people would rather buy a pack of frozen chicken rather than go through the stress of buying, killing and preparing a live one. As Africa’s economy develops and more people adopt modern and urban lifestyles, the demand for packaged foods will grow rapidly.
Think of a food product around you that may be giving people a hard time. A business opportunity stares you in the face if you can find a way to package that food product in a way that is convenient and appealing to consumers.
You will need to first process and package a certain food and the size of your operations will very much depend on the financial capital you are able to invest into processing equipment. We strongly encourage you to get started, even if you lack financial resources, because food processing is something that you could start successfully in your backyard or your own kitchen and grow fairly quickly if you indeed meet a market gap. You can start packing the food yourself into glasses, tins, or plastic bags with a simple sticky label on it. Branding will be absolutely key in successfully marketing your product.
Start producing food for particular niches that are not widely available. This includes, for example, dry snacks, lunch snacks, marmalade, honey, muesli, ready-made cakes and lunches, chocolate confectionary, fish fingers, chicken nuggets, frozen pizzas, tortellini, spicy sauces in the bottle and many more.
Food processing and branding is a business that works in any African country, but if you choose certain niche products that may be inspired by Western cuisine, you will find the best markets in countries with a fast-growing middle class such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, and Botswana, among several others. However, in most of these countries, a permit or license may be required to operate a food processing business.
Food processing and manufacturing is one of the key sectors that will see staggering growth in Africa. It is a good sector to get engaged in, as it allows you to tap into the fast-growing agricultural and consumer markets at the same time. By setting up a food processing company, you are further adding value to Africa’s raw produce; and by doing so you are tapping into a sector that will receive broad policy and funding support across Africa.
Action & Tips
1. You can be greatly inspired by reading about successful entrepreneurs across the world who started their own food processing company and brand from scratch (often in their own kitchens), because any concept can be easily applied to Africa as long as you chose the right kind of food.
2. Your market research is best done on the ground. Look extensively around in local supermarkets and hotels; look at prices and tastes to identify if you could produce something at a better quality or price. Talk to people in your community, including women (who usually do the shopping and cooking) of middle income families or experts to identify gaps in the market.