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Baitshepi Sekgweng
SELLING POINT: Mothooagae talking up her chilli

Meet the boss

  • An explosion of taste with Smetcher Foods

A Food Scientist by trade, Kgalaletso Mesadi Mothooagae knows exactly what ingredients and combinations work when it comes to creating condiments.

The 43-year-old foodie is the founder and Managing Director of Smetchar Foods, a homemade chilli that is proving too hot to resist for many.

A venture that started in the Kanye native’s kitchen back in 2015 has bloomed big time in the intervening seven years, with Smetchar Foods leaving its tasty mark in the Big Apple (New York) and Rwanda amongst others.

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Currently stocked at Spar stores in Riverwalk, Acacia and Airport Junction as well as Food Lovers Square Mart, Mothooagae plans to roll out her products nationwide soon.

The brand includes bottled chilli in three flavours: mild, hot and extra hot, using green chilli, onions, green pepper and habanero. Bottles come in 350g sizes and are priced at P55.

Kindly introduce yourself?

I’m a mother of two children and I come from Kanye. I did my tertiary education in South Africa at Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Tshwane University of Technology.

I am a seasoned Food Scientist with a background of Food Science and Technology, entrepreneur, with a deliberate bias towards food safety, coaching, and mentoring.

I possess vast experience and knowledge in the food industry, spanning over 15 years covering laboratory, production, standards development and implementation. My career started at Coca Cola Limited and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, where I interned as a Microbiologist.

Quite the foodie then! Now tell us about Smetchar Foods?

By virtue of being a Food Scientist, product development formed part of my duties, this was augmented by the passion I have around food.

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This brought about the birth a company called Smetchar Foods. The first product that was developed was a delectable chilli condiment, this was in 2015 where I started piloting the product from my kitchen until it was tested and started hitting retail shelves in 2018 in South Africa, since I schooled there.

The product saw much traction because of its amazing taste. At the time it was only one flavour.

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TASTY: Smetchar bottled chilli product

What happened next?

In 2019 I wanted to list my products with Spar Group. On my first meeting with the buyer, ‘Bobby Rashford’ he accused me of using someone’s product and passing it off as mine (laughing).

I showed him everything to prove its mine. He said it was too good to be a local product, though he was saying it jokingly. He then said, “Good as your product can be, I’m not taking it”

My heart sank, and asked why? His answer was, “You have so much potential, go and increase your range then come back to me.”

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That was it! I started working towards developing two more flavours, he delivered his promise, the board loved the product first time; all the samples that were examined by the board of directors were finished. That’s how we got a listed with Spar.

And how has Smetchar faired since?

Over the years Smetchar Foods has found traction in the market as people really love the product. The only hurdle we are faced with now is shortage of ingredients due to the vegetable import ban.

It’s a challenge because we use several inputs, when one is available, the other is not which affects production.

Speaking of production, what’s the capacity of Smetchar Foods plant in Pilane?

Our machine production capacity is 40, 000 bottles a month. But currently we are limited by so many factors, we can only go up to 1, 000 or so.

What sets Smetchar apart?

Quality, safety and taste set us apart in the industry. One thing I can confidently say is, once you pick our product on the shelves, be assured that you are consuming the safest product.

The processes that we employ eliminate potential risk. We also thrive on organic, we do not use any chemicals (preservatives, colorants) but our product still has a one-year shelf life.

How have Batswana reacted to your product?

I would say our products are loved, so we get many return customers. It’s addictive, to say the least. Once you start, your food will never be the same without a touch of Smetchar.

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I have so many stories from customers regarding the products – they literally can’t breathe without Smetchar!

In June, Smetchar Foods exhibited in New York, how did that come about and how did it help the company?

Smetchar Foods was selected to showcase at the Summer Fancy Show in New York, USA. Several businesses showed interest and we had started conversations towards export.

Unfortunately it didn’t get off the ground because of low production. We are hoping to find a solution soon so that we rekindle the conversations.

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Exciting stuff! More recently, Smetchar took part in Botswana/South Africa Business Forum, was this beneficial?

We found a few potential collaborations and partnerships, which may help the business grow. The same applies to the Rwanda Mission which we attended.

We are hopeful that this will bear fruits when things normalize again.

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Are there any new lines you’re planning to introduce?

We are about to launch two sauces within the next month. We also do pickles and other forms of preserves like sauerkraut, kimchi which are currently done on request.

Our plan is to help farmers minimize waste by using their produce that is of lower quality and cannot hit the retail market, by adding value to them and increase their shelf life.

There is the #PushaBW campaign, how has that helped the company?

#PushaBW helps by creating platforms for us upcoming businesses, to be visible, to be able to be seen by consumers, the same applies with Local Enterprise Agency (LEA).

They have really helped us as a business, handheld us, helped us with factory space and training.

Where do you want to see Smetchar Foods in the next years?

I would love to see Smetchar Foods being a reputable world class food manufacturer which the country can be proud of – flying the Botswana flag higher.

Combating food security, safety and nutrition is our key mandate. My whole inspiration, which may seem a bit unrealistic now, is Tiger Brands.

I want to see a company that can curb the food insecurity we are facing in our country, doing it meticulously without short cuts with safety and quality at the top of the list.

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