Entrepreneur Careen Asamba has become a local sensation with her innovative approach to producing gluten-free flour using a variety of locally sourced food crops, including bananas, cassava, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, arrowroots, and other tubers.
The inspiration for this unique venture struck Asamba in 2017 as a means to combat autoimmune disorders and gluten-related allergies triggered by traditional wheat-made flour products.
“I am personally affected by gluten-related allergies, and whenever I consume food products made from regular wheat flour, I suffer from severe health complications,” Asamba reveals. “The high cost of imported gluten-free alternatives motivated me to explore creating my own.”
Imported gluten-free food options were not only prohibitively expensive for Asamba but also inaccessible. She also discovered that many Kenyans faced similar health conditions but lacked knowledge of alternative food products.
With the encouragement of her husband, Asamba embarked on extensive online research to learn how to produce flour from the identified food items. In 2019, she officially commenced production, and her concept quickly gained traction in the market.
“When I began this business, there was already a significant market gap, so I encountered minimal difficulties entering the market,” she notes. “My primary clientele comprises individuals with health conditions that prevent them from consuming wheat-based food products.”
Asamba’s product range, which includes bread, cakes, cookies, butter, and jam, is crafted from banana, cassava, pumpkin, and sweet potato flour, among other ingredients. The production process involves sourcing raw materials from local farmers, peeling, chopping, solar drying, and grinding them into flour.
“We procure our raw materials from small-scale Kenyan farmers and add value by producing gluten-free flours and related products,” explains Asamba.
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Gluten, a protein found in wheat, triticale, barley, and sometimes oats, lends elasticity to dough and acts as a natural adhesive, binding food together. However, increasing concerns over gluten consumption have arisen due to the rising prevalence of gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease and allergies. Some of these conditions can severely impact vital organs like the intestines.
Asamba highlights that the demand for gluten-free flour is so substantial that she struggles to keep up. She calls upon investors to support her in expanding her business to meet this soaring demand.
Additionally, she urges media outlets to raise awareness about the significance of gluten-free flour and how it can be blended with wheat flour to enhance its nutritional value and prevent related health issues.
“I understand that gluten-free flour is still unfamiliar to many Kenyans, so we need more awareness programs to educate people about the health benefits and versatile uses of these products,” she emphasizes. “For instance, some believe these flours are only suitable for making porridge, which is not the case.”
According to Asamba, gluten-free flour is best utilised to fortify wheat flour before incorporating it into various recipes.