In South Sudan, demand for maize exceeds supply, leading to huge imports of the commodity. To improve access to affordable, locally produced, and nutritious food products, 2SCALE launched a pilot partnership with Kanybek Company Limited, based in Juba, South Sudan.
Launched in 2021, this partnership aims to reduce dependency on imported maize products, by expanding maize production.
A first for South Sudan, Kanybek has launched a new bread made from a blend of maize and wheat flour. Also launched, was a new maize meal. These innovative products were developed to satisfy the growing need to embrace local maize production and value addition in South Sudan. Prices were set to fit all consumers, including those at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) . A piece of the blended bread goes for 100 South Sudanese Pounds (0.01$)
Alana Sebit Owot, the Country Team Leader & Inclusive Agribusiness Adviser for this partnership gives more details:
To reduce food importation, and avail nutritious and affordable food to local consumers, Kanybek Company Limited business ambition was to innovate new way of baking a popular bread in South Sudan called Aish. Aish which means life, is consumed by the largest populace in Juba. In South Sudan, bread is taken with tea during breakfast, accompanies different stews during lunch and dinner/supper in most of the households. It is thus a highly sough after food that is enjoyed by most, if not all South Sudanese. Blending wheat and maize flour to produce bread significantly reduces production cost, while ensuring that most households can afford this delicacy. To enhance local maize production Kanybek through its inclusive business idea is currently engaging 945 smallholder maize farmers in Magwi in Eastern Equatoria State and Yei in the Central Equatoria region.
Apart from empowering smallholder farmers, this initiative has also created employment opportunities in the Kanybek bakery. Previously, Kanybek had 25 staff including casual workers. However, they have now acquired a modern oven to increase productivity, leading to increased staff.
With Kanybeck acquiring a modern commercial oven, their productivity has doubled and this has led to the company acquiring an additional 30 employees, over 70% female and youth.
Product development: using consumer feedback to formulate a sought-after maize-based bread.
While the new maize-flour product has achieved the desired and acceptable consistency, it has been a process. Matching the needs and wants of the local BoP market, while at the same time developing a product that provides a breakthrough for the Business Champion to further tap into BoP markets was a collaborative effort.
George Njeru, the Base of the Pyramid Marketing Specialist for South Sudan narrates:
When I first tasted Kanybek’s local bread, commonly known as Aish (in Juba Arabic), accompanying a sumptuous stew, I envied the people of South Sudan for having such delicious bread. The bread is a delicacy enjoyed in most households, typically taken with every meal, whether hot beverages or stews in homes and eateries. Kanybek Bakeries, using a traditional oven used to make the local bread for daily commercial distribution in Juba city and its surroundings. However, there was one challenge: the pricing, influenced especially, by the fact that South Sudan imports all its wheat flour for commercial bread braking. High cost of production did not motivate Kanybek to increase the volumes of bread it would process to reach to more consumers since the prices of wheat had been rising owing to the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In addition to this, the energy source (coal) that Kanybek had been utilizing for their traditional baking oven was quite costly.
As a result, Kanybek, in partnership with 2SCALE, acquired a modern semi-automated production line comprising of mixing, scaling, moulding, proofing, and baking components. Kanybek went further ahead and acquired a miller as part of the processing equipment for the maize meal product. To tackle the challenge of high production cost, the idea of blending maize and wheat was born, and a food scientist was brought on board by 2SCALE to develop a new kind of bread, made from a blend of wheat and maize flours.
Consumers have also played a huge role in adapting the product. The feedback process engaging various consumers guided the formulation of the product. It however didn’t come without any challenges, as the product had to be called off from Kanybek’s shelves for reformulation. While this meant incurring losses for the business champion, it was the only sure way to ensure that a product close to perfection was the end result.
George explains further:
The product development specialist performed several blended sample tests (for taste, volume, and colour) ranging from maize: wheat ratios 25:75, 20:80, 16: 84 and 11:91. The staff and friends of Kanybek Bakery were instrumental in tasting and giving feedback to the food scientist at every stage, until Kanybek settled on the final formulation of the blended bread. Care was taken to ensure that the original taste of bread (Aish) was not eroded as well as the volume and colour of bread.
As part of the product development process, Kanybek staff were trained and equipped with skills on how to formulate the blended bread, as well as how to operate the new production equipment. Before product development, Kanybek used to sell an average of 1230 pieces of Aish bread, from a production capacity of 1450 pieces per day. Under the new semi-automated production line, Kanybek can produce upto 2880 pieces of buns per hour in a turnaround time of 10 minutes. If the oven is operated for only 8 hours a day, it can produce 23,040 pieces. This is truly a transformation of the inclusive business to offer more employment opportunities and reach more low-income consumers in South Sudan.