Kenya’s chocolate industry has for years been dominated by multinationals serving up numerous forms of the candy to a ready market that is neither segmented by age nor gender.
However, a local couple is now seeking to challenge this foreign dominance by converting a personal love of chocolates into a business that is fast gaining traction in Nairobi.
George Wanjohi, an auditor in the city, and his wife Monica Njoki are the brains behind Kiss Premium Chocolates, manufactured by their company Trump East Africa Limited.
The businessGeorge Wanjohi, an auditor in the city, and his wife Monica Njoki are the brains behind Kiss Premium Chocolates, manufactured by their company Trump East Africa Limited., which is worth over Sh10 million and growing, manufactures its premium brand of chocolates in a three-bedroom bungalow which the duo has rented in Nairobi’s Kahawa Sukari estate.
“My wife loves chocolates. Her addiction helped this idea come into fruition. And we are hell-bent on making it an empire,” Mr Wanjohi, 35, told Enterprise in an interview last week.
“We have dabbled in several businesses, including in real estate, and our personal careers but we did not find the excitement that our hearts were yearning for.
Until now.” The father-of-two said they conceptualised the idea in November 2015 but it only became a reality last March after benchmarking from overseas and online chocolate forums.
Mr Wanjohi and his wife visited businesses in the United States, Belgium, Switzerland, Singapore and Turkey as they sought to grow their knowledge in the craft; to understand how best to manufacture chocolates cheaply locally.
And when time was right, the couple pooled over Sh10 million from bank loans, their combined savings as well as proceeds from sale of some assets.
“We started importing equipment and assembling them in the three-bedroom bungalow rented out at Kahawa Sukari late last year and by mid-March 2017 our first product rolled out,” he said.
“We looked at ingredients of chocolates from other countries and compared them with those from Switzerland and Belgium, which are made from pure cocoa butter. Those from other countries are made of vegetable fat and have an aftertaste.”
Just 10 days after rolling out, the business won a tender by PricewaterhouseCoopers in partnership with Google Kenya, beating giants like Cadbury’s and Dairy Land, to supply 800 bars of chocolates.
Right crystal size
To date, the business of seven employees has produced over 10,000 bars of chocolates each weighing 100 grams
Twelve Chandarana Supermarket stores as well as 25 Tuskys outlets stock Kiss Premium Chocolates, with the latter’s order worth over Sh700,000, Mr Wanjohi said.
He said that they contracted a Belgian company to import chocolate pellets for tempering locally.
Tempering of chocolate is a stage of manufacturing, which ensures the right crystal size before moulding into desired shapes.
To further distinguish his chocolates from others available in the market, Kiss Premium chocolates are infused with fresh fruits including blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
The chocolates are sold in bars and pouches with a 100 gram pouch going for Sh250 while normal bars retail at Sh195.
Their packaging is designed by local businesswoman Maryanne Wambui and printed in China.
“The Chinese are very flexible, they look at long-term prospects. In Kenya, manufacturers told us they would not print less than a ton of paper per order,” said Mr Wanjohi.
Signs of growth
“I am looking at slow growth as I don’t want to rush and compromise on quality. It’s a learning process.”
Despite Mr Wanjohi’s modest comments, the business is already showing signs of growth.
Trump East Africa Limited is set to move to bigger premises which can accommodate new, bigger equipment which the business bought recently in Belgium.
The best moment for Mr Wanjohi is seeing people picking up their products from shelves. “It’s emotional,” he said.
Chocolate is a key ingredient in many foods and beverages including milk shakes, cookies, cakes, cereal, flavoured coffee and even some medicines.
Studies have shown that dark chocolate can help prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity while normal types contain essential nutrients that are beneficial to humans.