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There's more to maize than ugali, ask me how

MONEY & MARKET
By Nikko Tanui | September 18th 2021

Bischof Jebiwott, the founder Bischof Developing Local Opportunities (BDELO), a food processing and packaging company that offers a variety of maize-based healthy and tasty foods and snacks.

Growing up in the 70s in Elgeiyo Marakwet, Bischof Jebiwott did not look forward to breakfast like many other rural children.

It invariably consisted of tea and the previous night's dinner leftovers, mostly ugali or its crust. But an opportunity to study in the US changed her perception of the first meal of the day, planting a business idea in making tasty foods and snacks. She shared her journey with Money Maker and what makes her tick.   

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. How was yours growing up?

As a young girl growing up in the 70s at Kipnai village in Elgeiyo-Marakwet County, the only thing I could lay my hands on as a snack or as a breakfast accompaniment was ugali or the crust, which was the only thing that most rural families could afford for their children as a substitute for bread.

What changed your low perception of maize meal?

In 1990, I went to the United States on an exchange programme to study for a Master’s degree in management at Case Western Reserve University. While there, I interacted with South American and Caribbean students and sampled their dishes, whose basic component was maize. I was amazed at Mexican authentic food preparation and discovered that the ugali crust is a huge global delight, referred to as Nacho or tortilla chips/crisp. Back at home, we only thought that maize is only good for ugali, githeri or porridge.

How did your business idea start?

I noted with concern Kenya imports tortilla chips and maize-related products from overseas, while local communities who depend on maize farming make losses for lack of market or value addition. In 2010, I flew back to Kenya and established Bischof Developing Local Opportunities (BDELO), a food processing and packaging company that offers a variety of maize-based healthy and tasty foods and snacks. The company located in Kona Baridi in Kajiado County sources all raw materials locally. We work with aggregate farmers and individual small-scale rural farmers.

Tells us more about BDELO

BDELO products are maize-based, blended and fused with high nutritive vegetables, legumes, super grains and seeds in over 10 variants, such as moringa, sukuma wiki, sweet potatoes, chia, flax, sesame, kales, beetroot, cassava and potatoes, among other ingredients.

Our products comprise maize and sukuma tortilla chips, maize and millet tortilla chips, as well as maize and chia tortilla chips. Our products are gluten-free, have no preservatives, are halal certified, rich in fibre and have no monosodium glutamate (MSG). Besides the tortilla chips, the company also produces taco shells and soft tortillas. BDELO products, which are inspired by Mexican nachos, integrate the Kenyan heritage.

How are they prepared?

Preparation utilises the traditional Mexican method of nixtamalisation, which removes the husk from the kernel. The method enriches the nutritional value of the products. The nixtamalised maize is then made into a dough that can make a variety of base products. Tortilla chips are made into thin sheets then fried before packaging.

How do you market your products?

The company adopts a mixed marketing strategy to achieve cost-effective marketing objectives. These include promotions, media advertising, special sales activities, referral marketing and participation in events and community activities. Though the company is currently working on export opportunities to the Middle East after the registration of BDELO International in the Kingdom of Bahrain, locally it has not been all smooth sailing. We lost huge sums of money and as well as customers after the closure of Nakumatt and Uchumi supermarkets. The tragedy is that there was no government intervention to salvage the well-being of suppliers. We are, nonetheless, rebuilding again through the new retailers and supermarkets.

How did you raise capital for the business?

To establish the company, I invested millions of shillings from my 30 years of savings. The money went into purchasing and importing machines designed to produce tortillas and nachos. The money also went into product development, factory construction and the purchase of other assets, raw materials, packaging, marketing and distribution.

What's next for BDELO?

I hope that the business will grow to be a global supplier of choice for high-quality foods and snacks. We would like to diversify into other foods, focusing on organic products and continue to nourish and delight our customers while contributing to the development of local opportunities.

[email protected]

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