Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and the continent’s most populous region. The combination of these also makes the country the hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. Despite the country’s economic success, the country continues to lack on so many fronts.
One of such fronts is the baby food industry. This is not a Nigeria problem only. Africa reportedly imports an estimated $600 million of baby food every year and the figure is projected to hit $1 billion by 2016.
This is because the local baby food production in Africa is underexploited. Nigerian entrepreneur Adepeju Jaiyeoba wants to fill in the yawning gap. She is the founder of Colourful Giggles, the Lagos-based baby food company.
According to her, affordable and nutritional baby food is hard to come by in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. This means that babies are fed with the staple crop that is cheap and readily available to their families. Also, healthy imported options come with their own challenges like cost and availability.
“If the family plants maize then that is the only food the baby is going to eat,” said Jaiyeoba to How We Made It In Africa. “If they plant soya beans then that is what the child will eat. The parents do not pay particular attention to the nutritional value and the mix of micro and macro nutrients that are important for children under the age of five”.
A trained lawyer, Jaiyeoba started her baby food production company that would use Nigerian ingredients that could compete with dominant global brands. Today, the company she created in 2020 produces a range of products priced from $2 to $5, targeting middle-class Nigerian mothers as well as low-income households.
The business now has six recipes based on local grains and perishables. According to How We Made It In Africa, one variety is a mix of wheat, cashew nut, pawpaw, and banana, while another is sweet potatoes, soya beans, cucumber, and dates. The blend of ingredients is sold in a 300g box that instructs the consumer to add water to the dry powder to make a paste.
“Why can’t we have great food in Nigeria that is also high in nutrients? African based meals that provide excellent nutritional value for children. That is where the story of Colourful Giggles came from.”
As part of her aspiration to compete with global brands, Jaiyeoba worked with experts across the world to gather healthy recipes. She began production by sourcing grains from northern Nigeria and fruit and vegetables from a nearby collective run by women farmers. One of her major problems was ensuring a steady supply of grains from the northern regions due to logistical issues.
“Something could be happening on the expressway, there could be a blockage, but the key is to place your orders well before you need them,” she explained.