The man behind the SA pet food brand exporting to over 12 countries including U.S., Hong Kong

Abu Mubarik November 15, 2022
Nhlanhla Dlamini. Image via Linkedin

Nhlanhla Dlamini, 38, is revolutionizing the pet food industry in South Africa with his brand of pet food to give South Africans the option of doing away with feeding dogs with leftover foods.

The South African national from Soweto is the founder of the pet food brand Maneli Pets which is gaining global attention. His pet food made from his factory in Johannesburg is popular on local and international shelves. It can be found in over 12 countries, including the USA, UK, Europe and Asian countries like Hong Kong and Singapore. The United States is his largest market in terms of volume of sales outside South Africa. 

He offers customers a variety of premium pet food and treats products like high-protein chews, bites and snacks in the form of freeze-dried meats, tendons and bones, according to IOL Business. Maneli Pets is the first South African company to export pet food to the U.S., the outlet reported.

“We are on Amazon, we sell on Chewy.com and we sell in just over 1 000 pet shops around the US. We have various sub-distributors in the North East, in Minnesota and another in New Mexico and one in the Pacific Northwest and one in Texas. And that’s only in three or four years in the US market so it’s still early days,” said Damini to the outlet.

According to Dlamini, he leveraged his country’s reputation in the international market as a quality meat producer. “I realized that there was a massive global market that we needed to tap into one that we have been kind of ignoring as South Africans,” he said.

“As South Africans, I think we know that we have tremendous proteins. Our beef is delicious, our lamb is really really good, and our ostrich is phenomenal and we take it for granted because it’s what we’ve known all our lives. Every year when international visitors come to SA they remark about how good our meat is and how well-priced it is.”

The South African entrepreneur grew up in a family where education and innovation were encouraged. Through hard work, he got scholarships and bursaries to further and complete his studies.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Wits University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Management (with Distinction) from the Wits Business School, an MPhil in Development Studies from Oxford University, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Prior to starting Maneli Pets, he worked with McKinsey & Company for five years. It was during his term at the firm that he established the McKinsey-GoldenKey scholarships for the top-achieving students at Wits University and the University of Cape Town.

Speaking on his future plans for his dog food, Dlamini noted that he wants to be one of the largest exporters of pet products worldwide. Currently, he employs about 50 people and his products are manufactured from animal parts that human consumption processors don’t use, he told How We Made It In Africa. 

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