You can make flour from all sorts of food products, from grains and nuts to squashes like sweet potatoes, butternut and pumpkin. The good news is that flour milling doesn’t have to be done on an industrial scale – you can run your own outfit on a much smaller scale using simple equipment. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
Cassava flour is made from the whole root of the cassava plant. It needs to be processed while still fresh – that is, not more than 24 hours after it’s been harvested. The cassava is cleaned of soil and then peeled. The strings in the middle are removed before the peeled cassava is washed and then grated into fine pieces.
The grated cassava is wrapped in clean kitchen towels and liquid is squeezed out of it. If it’s being done in large quantities, cleaned sacks can be used instead of kitchen towels.
The wrapped cassava is placed on a lifted table that has gaps to allow any dripping liquid to pass through. Containers are placed beneath the table to collect the liquid. A drying table can be constructed using sticks.
When there’s no more liquid draining from the cassava, it is placed on baking trays and spread out to dry in the sun. It can also be dried in an oven set at low heat or using solar dryers. Drying needs to be done immediately after grating as delays could cause the cassava to ferment.
Once the cassava is completely dry, it’s crushed into powder either in a food mill or using a pestle and mortar. The flour is sifted using a big stainless steel sieve and then packaged in sealed containers to prevent absorption of moisture from the atmosphere.
Other types of flour
Flour from squashes is generally made by peeling, boiling and mashing, and then leaving the squash to dry before crushing it into powder either using a food mill or a pestle and mortar.
Flour can also be made from rice by grinding it using a blender. Rice flour needs to be stored either in airtight containers or in the refrigerator otherwise it could absorb moisture and get mouldy.
You can start by milling small amounts of flour from your kitchen, consuming it within your family and selling the surplus within your circles. Dealing with food requires high levels of hygiene, however, so never compromise on that.
Should you wish to grow your food processing business to a commercial level, make sure that you operate within the law. Register your business and get the necessary licences required for a food processing business. An enterprise or business name is the simplest form of business registration, and costs about Sh1,000 and takes less than a month to process.
To operate a commercial flour milling business, you’ll need to operate from premises that are approved by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs). Your business will also have to be issued with a public health certificate.
You’ll need to invest in commercial equipment for washing, peeling, wet milling and dry milling, drying, sifting and packaging.
Kebs requires that you provide samples of your products for testing before you’re issued with Kebs stickers. It is illegal to sell to the public products that are not approved by Kebs.
The bureau further requires owners of food processing businesses to purchase a booklet that outlines the required code of practice for food handling hygiene. The requirements, as per the booklet, include ensuring that food is produced in premises that are equipped with handwashing facilities, both sanitisers and soap.
All employees who handle food must have food handlers’ medical certificates and wear protective clothing.
Sales and marketing
Consumers are very sensitive about the quality of foodstuff. If you’re not a name brand, they can be distrusting about the quality protocols followed and processing procedure. It, therefore, will take some work to educate the public before they can trust your food product and unfamiliar brand.
Plan your marketing strategies carefully and be prepared for slow uptake of your product when you initially go commercial. You’ll need to invest in advertising and public education. You might consider starting a YouTube channel where you record the production process of your products to showcase your hygiene standards. You can also share recipes for different foods made from your flours.
Use the videos to give your potential customers a behind-the-scenes look at how your products are produced and used. You may also consider opening a restaurant specialising in the food products you produce.
Don’t get into the food production business with supermarkets in mind as your distribution channel. You might waste a lot of time trying to get accepted by major supermarket chains. Be creative in your distribution efforts. Target small outlets in the initial stages. Explore the option of working with smaller distributors and cereals kiosks.
Institutions like schools and colleges can be a good market, too. Do your research and find out how you could sell to them. Do they use the tendering process to source for supplies? Get listed. Such a market can also help you save on packaging costs since you can pack your flour in sacks as opposed to smaller packets.
Keep your prices competitive and be prepared to give the market some time to warm up to your products. Keep your hygiene standards high and don’t work outside of the law.