Peanoko spreads out

Baitshepi Sekgweng
FOOD FORAGERS: Magowe and Tito

Home-made Peanut Butter making smooth strides

Having saved their Thebes tirelessly for five years, in March 2022 three intrepid young women felt they had finally raised enough capital to buy the equipment needed to get their business up and running.

It was a moment: Thamiso Magowe, 32, Refilwe Tito, 33, and Gloria Molefe, 33, had been dreaming about since 2017, when they first registered FoodForage.

The diverse enterprise specialises in peanut butter, roasted peanuts and fresh fruit juice, with their ginger, lemon and tropical drinks proving especially popular.

Although all three products are doing reasonably well, it is their peanut butter, ‘Peanoko’, that the trio are best known for.

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The tasty spread, a favourite with toast lovers, comes in a variety of options, with smooth and crunchy versions available in special Organic form (no sugar or salt) as well as their traditional offering, which contains salt and sugar but no added preservatives.

From their base in Old Naledi, ‘Peanoko’ produce peanut butter in a range of sizes, from 500g right through to 20kg tubs.

“Our peanut butter is unique because we manufacture it from locally-sourced peanuts, so we don’t go across the border to get peanuts. It means we are playing a role in value addition, which means we instigate farmers to go into peanuts production. It is tested and certified by Botswana Bureau of Standards, which means it’s a brand you can trust,” reveals Tito.

Speaking to Voice Money on the sidelines of the Botswana Consumer Fair, where they were exhibiting for the second year running, the three musketeers explain they joined forces to make the most of their diverse skill sets: Magowe and Molefe are certified food scientists while Tito is an economist.

“Before establishing this business we worked in the industry to pick up experience and expertise; then we brought an economist on board because she brings in knowledge of financials,” says Magowe.

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Having secured shelf-space at Squaremart Gaborone in September last year, Peanoko’s battle to reach the masses received a huge boost recently when Choppies agreed to stock the product at their Mogoditshane, Railpark and Station stores.

“As new entrants in this sector our challenge is a lack of capital since we are self-funded and our capacity is limited because the piece of machinery we could afford is small. We try to grow by bidding for tenders hoping to win; we realize we are going to have capacity problem in the near future,” admits Magowe.

Currently, they churn out 300kg of peanut butter a day – a number set to rise as Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) have offered the company factory space at their Pilane incubation facility, with the trio hoping to move in by the end of the month.

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Entering a market dominated by established brands (a certain furry feline comes to mind) is no easy task, as the ladies are fast finding out.

“To get a first time customer is hard because Botswana seems to be a brand loyal nation. There is always skepticism to try new products but the good news is that when someone buys from us they return, which means the product is good and has potential,” reasons Magowe.

Events such as the Consumer Fair and the Global Expo, where FoodForage scooped second place in the Brand Botswana #PushaBw category last year, are a big help in attracting new customers.

“The Consumer Fair has given us the opportunity to meet various supermarkets managers who have informed us of the requirements for listing. Also we got to meet consumers who were able to taste and appreciate our products and give feedback in real time. Generating sales has been key because at the factory we are focused on production but here we made good sales. We are happy because we are self-funded and we dig deep in our pockets and the sales we made are able to help here and there in operations,” testifies Tito.

“The more we interact with customers the more we list with retailers and wholesalers since we are able to sell to more people. Even introducing our beverage line is a highlight because we are hoping the reception will be good and it will be a best seller for us out there in the shops,” she says, adding tenders were initially hard to come by but they recently put pen to paper on a contract to supply primary schools in Ramotswa District.

Having been blown away by their crunchy peanut butter, Voice Money sees plenty more success on Peanoko’s horizon…

Peanoko spreads out
YUMMY: Peanoko varieties
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