Enterprise

Cosmetics venture reaps from Covid-19 silver lining

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Demand for hygiene products has gone up thanks to Covid-19 pandemic. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The Eldoret-based firm has seen demand for its products, especially sanitisers and detergents, shoot up.
  • Started as a small tube and bottle packaging company three decades ago, the Laminate Tube Industries (LTI) has grown and expanded into the realm of cosmetics, detergents, water bottling and hand sanitisers.
  • The new line of products, which are needed to keep high standard of hygiene, were developed by Nia Cosmetics, independent from the parent company.

As most firms trimmed their workforce to cope with the economic meltdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, Laminate Tube Industries (LTI), has thrived mainly because it deals in products that are needed in the fight against the disease.

The Eldoret-based firm has seen demand for its products, especially sanitisers and detergents, shoot up.

“I don’t want to say that it is a blessing because it would appear that we are celebrating this deadly virus. However, every situation requires a solution. This is about a virus that requires that one adheres to hygiene,” says Angela Shuma, the business development manager at the Nia Cosmetics and detergents, a subsidiary of the Laminate Tube Industries.

“We decided to produce more hand sanitisers and help in lowering transmission.”

Started as a small tube and bottle packaging company three decades ago, the Laminate Tube Industries (LTI) has grown and expanded into the realm of cosmetics, detergents, water bottling and hand sanitisers.

The new line of products, which are needed to keep high standard of hygiene, were developed by Nia Cosmetics, independent from the parent company.

“We saw the market required more products and since we were already making packaging solutions we decided to make our own line of products. That is how we improved our portfolio overtime by venturing into detergent and cosmetics,” she says.

Ms Shuma says hotels, hospitals, flower farms, food industries, learning institutions and other institutions form majority of the clientele base for their products such as detergents, soaps, shampoo, shower gel and those for oral-care.

“Most clients prefer to source their products here because it is a one-stop shop. You need to provide a wide range of products since you would want to reduce headache for the clients sourcing these products from different places,” she adds.

During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for the firm’s products went up tremendously.

“Our production is dictated by demand. We don’t want to make so many products that stay in warehouse for long,” she says.

“So we assess the consumer demand and requirements in order to make them according to specifications. For instance if a client wants natural and organic products, we help them make them since we have a laboratory here to check on ingredients.”

The firm has 40 permanent staff and between 20 and 40 employees on temporary terms, depending on the volume of work.

“How we have structured our workforce is that the worker is able to switch from one production line to the other depending on demand of a particular product. We don’t want someone to be offloaded so that why they are not busy in one line they can support one production line. This is why we provide them with as much exposure as possible,” said Ms Shuma.

Some of their markets for their products include the neighbouring countries of Tanzania and Uganda through a distribution network while LTI serves some of the multinational companies up to South Africa and Ethiopia, besides the local market.

The raw materials for making the products are sourced locally and others are imported.

Do they have a low and peak seasons for their products?

“Yes, for hotel industry,” says Ms Shuma. “Most of them get more clients during holidays that is April, August and starts to peak again from November to January. For water it depends on warm or cold season, in warmer season it is our peak season.”

The firm is also ready to transition towards the eco-friendly packaging but faces head-winds for lack of standards by relevant regulatory bodies.

“The idea was for us to be a green company. We wanted that to give us an edge but most of us are in catch-22 because the Nema (National Environment Authority) and Kebs (Kenya Bureau of Standards) have not provided the manufacturers with the standards on alternatives. Anybody won’t want to come up with the packaging then be rejected in the market over the cost implications,” says Ms Shuma.

Plastic pollution is one of the most serious threats to the planet’s health. Single-use plastics are polluting the majority of ecosystems from rainforests to the world’s aquatic life.

By 2050, the UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, unless governments and the private sector promote more resource-efficient design, production, use and sound management of plastics throughout their life cycle.

According to Bryan Cuthbert, the North Rift Region Kenya Association of Manufacturers Chairperson, the Association is currently engaging Kenya Bureau of Standards through its Plastic Technical Committee to develop a consensus on the development of standards and standardization mark for recycled products.

“Standards for secondary raw materials and incentives for the use of these materials are important in achieving Kenya’s circular economy goals,” he says.

Some of the challenges in the industry include influx of substandard and cheaper materials in the market imported from other countries.