Entrepreneur turns avocado post-harvest losses into profit

Nyeri-based entrepreneur Diana Kendi (left). She innovated a strategy aimed at value addition of avocado fruits. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

From a mouthwatering accompaniment to foods, avocado is now used in the beauty industry.

Beauty products sourced from avocado oil are now being used as the magic behind routines for skin care, color cosmetics, hair and personal care, and fragrances.

A Nyeri-based entrepreneur innovated a strategy aimed at value addition of the avocado fruits in a move that has targeted local and international markets.

Diana Kendi started the initiative six months ago out of her desire to use natural products in her project which she touts as a potential game-changer in climate mitigation.

“Natural oils are a unisex product line borne from a deep desire to reduce the use of products with chemicals and preservatives and to embrace natural locally available remedies that are good for people and the planet in the long term,” she said. 

Apart from the avocado fruits, Ms Kendi also processes derivatives from the plants to complement the oils, a key component in the climate action agenda that avoids a likely scenario of using chemicals and adhering to the conservation principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Other oil products that are used alongside the avocado oils include Rosemary oil which is distilled with steam extraction methods out of the flowers of the plant and the tea tree plant oil.

Health benefits 

“The oils can be used alongside each other or as the wishes of the customer, but if used alongside the rosemary and tea tree plant oils, the health benefits can’t be underestimated,” said Kendi.

Researchers have found out that avocado oil has numerous health benefits, largely related to its content of antioxidants and healthy fats, with Kendi using the research to market her products.

“Almost 70 per cent of avocado oil consists of heart-healthy oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid and vitamins A, D, and E, which nourishes and moisturises the skin while it contains antioxidants that help in healing dry flaky skin associated with eczema and psoriasis,” added Kendi.

According to Kendi, 10 kilograms of avocado are needed to make one litre of avocado oil.

To reduce the cost of production, Kendi engages local processors in ‘contract manufacturing’ where processors source fruits from farmers and manufacture the avocado oil in its entirety.

“We are left with packaging and marketing of the final product, and given that our product is not made from chemical products, it has attracted the international markets,” Kendi said.

According to the entrepreneur, her venture creates an alternative market for the avocado fruits that don’t qualify for export due to the stringent foreign policy on handling, maintenance and transportation of the fruits.

“Avocado fruits used in the production of oils do not require a stringent procedure to pass the test, they can be overly ripe and in whatever shape, unlike those meant for export, this helps mitigate the post-harvest losses,” Kendi added.

Kendi, who works in the county government of Nyeri as the CEC Trade and Tourism, started the project as a side hustle and plans to use it as an exit strategy in 2027.

She injected Sh250,000 as a start-off capital, but she says the business has returned the capital and she now enjoys the profit.

“We don’t have an office, and we depend on motorbikes to deliver our service a move that creates income for the riders,” Kendi said

According to Avocado Society of Kenya chief executive Ernest Muthomi, avocado post-harvest losses account for 45 per cent of the total sales.

“In Kenya, total avocado production accounts for 240,000 metric tons while we export 84,000 tons. 35 per cent of avocado goes to waste locally while 10 per cent of the exported fruits go into loss,” said Muthomi.

Unwarranted competition 

The loss, Muthomi said has led to ruining the reputation of Kenyan avocados and has caused bans on the entry of the superfood to the key markets abroad.

“Use of chemicals, handling, harvesting and transportation of fruits to the market and shipment of immature fruits is what attributes to post-harvest losses,” Muthomi added.

However, Muthomi decried that the industry is providing unwarranted competition in the avocado industry, accusing some players of harvesting immature fruits from farmers and denying them the value of the fruits.

“Currently, there are about ten companies processing crude avocado oil but none is in the refinery processing. Some players harvest immature fruits instead of waiting for the rejects and this denies farmers the value of their fruits,” he said.

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