By STUART LISULO
JAVA Foods Limited, a leading Zambian food processor, has penetrated the regional markets after successfully exporting its renowned ‘eeZee noodles’ to Zimbabwe and Malawi.
In an interview in Lusaka, Java Foods founder and chief executive officer Monica Musonda has disclosed that the company has grown the market for Zambia’s leading noodle brand into two neighbouring markets in the last 10 months, with sales volumes of its famous ‘eeZee noodles’ brand already hitting one million packets.
“Java Foods business strategy and roll out in Zambia was influenced by a number of factors. Firstly, Zambia is self-sufficient in wheat, yet locally we use wheat only for bread and confectionary. So there was an opportunity to introduce new products using wheat.
“Secondly, a young (youthful) urban population and changing consumption patterns meant more people were looking for convenience ready-to-eat, affordable meals.”
The company realized that the factors were not unique to Zambia (especially on the target market, demographics and consumption patterns) and so it made sense for us to sell into regional markets.
“We started off in Zimbabwe in November, 2020 and Java Foods signed a distribution agreement with Tulips Distribution Limited. The product has done very well; consumer demand has grown and we have sold almost a million packets into that market. The Zimbabwean consumer is quite progressive, willing to try new products. Noodles have been in that market for some time now but it does seem that they like eeZee Noodles because of its high quality and our greatly localized taste and flavour.”
She adds that consumer feedback in the Malawian market is positive, with sales volumes equally impressive.
“The second market we looked at was Malawi. We did a little bit of research, trying to understand the Malawian market. Zimbabwe’s market is very similar to ours in terms of how they distribute products and in terms of where people buy products.”
Research into Malawian scenario took some time because Java Foods needed to understand the landscape. “It’s a very small country, but very highly populated with people shopping quite differently from what you see in Zambia. Therefore, it took us some time to choose our distributor, but we ended up with a bigger, well-known distributor in Malawi, and the product was first exported into Malawi in June, this year. We are now sending another load through this week.”
In Malawi, the feedback was immediate with people turning to social media to talk about the product, which was notably recognized as a Zambian brand.
And Musonda observes that Java’s successful push into regional markets was buoyed by securing strategic local distributors in both Malawi and Zimbabwe.
“Primarily because we cannot create Java Foods in every country around us, you have to really work through partnerships with people who already distribute products in their local market. And it’s important to work through partnerships because your local partner understands how people buy products, what influences them to buy products, and they have relationships with retailers, wholesalers and so forth.”
Distribution costs are lower and corporate partners can import Java Foods products without paying customs duty.
“We are just about to introduce ‘Supa Cereal’ (our fortified instant maize soya porridge) into Zimbabwe. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we do find that our consumers are now looking at nutritious foods to enhance immune systems; eat right to keep healthy. So Supa Cereal is a product of choice. But we feel that by the end of the year, you will be able to find both products in both countries.”
“One very important point, which we are very proud of, is that Java Foods instant noodle plant is the only instant noodle factory in Southern Africa, outside of South Africa. So, it obviously puts Java Foods in a very advantageous position to other noodle brands which are imported from Asia or elsewhere because we are here right next door. We offer a high-quality product at very competitive pricing.”
Amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic in Zambia and across the region, Java has successfully managed to mitigate the devastating effects of the virus by implementing business strategies to adhere to health regulations and guarantee staff and consumer safety.
The company has allowed flexibility in working shifts for staff members who do not need to be present at their state-of-the-art plant in Lusaka’s light industrial area, while also employing digital marketing through growth agency Manic Creatives to maintain visibility on social media and drive-up sales volumes.