From July 2021, Nairobians will be able to enjoy a well-known dish in a new twist: StewsDay™ Ready-to-eat Ndengu. Instead of boiling green grams for hours, consumers simply add boiling water, stir, wait for three minutes and it is ready. It promises to become an instant hit for people looking for a convenient, healthy and affordable meal.
The drying method is a Kenyan invention that allows the taste of this dish to come out as good as fresh. The company’s food researcher Eddie Omobe explains: ‘Our natural drying method allows us to preserve food like never before. We add natural ingredients that encapsulate the taste, but also most vitamins and other nutrients. After drying, it stays good for up to two years. The exact recipe I cannot tell, that’s our secret recipe like Coca-Cola has theirs.’
NatureLock, the company behind this product, has plans to take the impact of this drying method much further.
CEO Tei Mukunya Oundo elaborates: ‘Ndengu is just the first of many products that we can ‘nature lock’. We have successfully dried all kinds of fruit, vegetables and even fish, with spectacular results regarding preserved fresh taste, and at such low cost. What we want to achieve with this company is simple: Make nutritious food affordable for all, while using produce that would otherwise go to waste.’
In her previous company Azuri Health Ltd., Tei worked tirelessly to dry ripe mangoes and other fruits that are lost in such large volumes across Kenya. Up to 40% of harvested mangoes rot before reaching consumers. These types of high-loss produce are also the focus of her new company.
Through the Rockefeller Foundation, she met NatureLock’s co-founder, Wilco Vermeer, a Dutch entrepreneur who has experimented with the drying method in its early stages of development.
‘During the first Corona lockdown in Nairobi, we prototyped a lot and realised that our ambitions could be scaled to make instant and dried food products with mass appeal. What we do is suitable for many countries in Africa, because our drying can reduce the need for costly cold storage and transport of fruit and vegetables. And we decided to start in Kenya.’
Instead of applying their invention just anywhere or with any company, the two co-founders are deliberate to use it as a force for good. As Mukunya-Oundo puts it: ‘We have a long way to go to make African food systems sustainable and delivering for all. We can contribute to solutions by working with like-minded partners who share our goals.’
NatureLock is festively opening its factory at Old Mombasa Road on Wednesday, June 30th, by bringing together a network of food and agricultural businesses, NGO’s and the Dutch Ambassador in Kenya.
This coming month, single-serve portions of StewsDay Ndengu will become available for 30 shillings around selected retail shops in Nairobi.