- Sky Foods acquired the TreeTop juice brand from Unilever Kenya about three years ago.
- Under the TreeTop brand, Sky Foods will produce five flavours that include orange, mango, apple, tropical and a mix of strawberry and banana.
- The firm expects to achieve an annual production of 12 million litres.
The once popular juice TreeTop is set to make a comeback in supermarket shelves with the opening of a production plant for the beverage in Juja.
Bernard Njoroge, a former director of juice processor Del Monte Kenya, is behind the Sh500 million factory.
Mr Njoroge, who is the chairman of Sky Foods, said in an interview on Wednesday that he acquired the TreeTop juice brand from Unilever Kenya about three years ago.
“There is strong demand coming from the middle class. The product was popular with Kenyans for many years,” said Mr Njoroge who resigned last year from Del Monte where he worked as the marketing and sales director for 15 years.
TreeTop concentrate was last sold in Kenyan shops in 1995.
The investment has been funded through an equity stake acquisition by the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) — a State investment firm that finances small and medium enterprises to accelerate their growth.
ICDC has taken a Sh100 million equity stake in the company.
Mr Njoroge’s co-shareholders contributed the balance of the seed capital. Under the TreeTop brand, Sky Foods will produce five flavours that include orange, mango, apple, tropical and a mix of strawberry and banana.
The firm expects to achieve an annual production of 12 million litres.
It has employed 600 staff at the plant that is expected to be opened officially this Friday by Industrialisation secretary Adan Mohammed and Kiambu Governor William Kabogo.
The company has already started advertising the brand in Thika, Nairobi, Nakuru and Naivasha ahead of the launch.
“There is a lot of opportunities in the juice market based on my experience in the industry. The demand is huge and more importantly for a brand that is already known in the market,” said Mr Njoroge.
The businessman said he will be eyeing diversification to grow the company’s bottom line instead of relying on one product as the main source of revenue.
“We will be diversifying to smoothies which is a mixture of juice and milk. We will also be looking to start producing bottled water by the end of this year as we deepen our markets in the soft drink sector.
“The growth of the Kenyan economy (projected to be in range of 6.5 to seven per cent) is a motivation,” he said.
The fresh juice processing market is currently dominated by the likes of Del Monte, Coca-Cola, and Kevian Kenya, the makers of Afia Juice.
Most processors prefer producing flavoured drinks to cut on production costs. In supermarkets, the cost of real fruit juices is always higher compared to flavoured juices due to higher production outlays.
Given the stiff competition among processors, industry players have of late resorted to pricing and packaging to gain market share over their rivals, while playing up the health benefits that their drinks offer.