This post is a Business 101 class, so take notes. Lol. I had an idea I wanted to run by a friend a few weeks ago. The conversation naturally drifted to food. This friend and I are huge foodies, so it was expected. Anyways, I sent her links of the new juices/smoothies bar popping up all over Nigeria, and one thing I loooooove about this friend of mine is her bluntness. It may rankle sometimes when you are the receiving end, but once you get to understand that, it isn’t personal, that is just her personality, you take it in stride. The first thing she said was Dunni, I am not impressed. I laughed and said why. Her response was – of all the lovely natural fruits in Nigeria, why on earth do we have strawberry smoothies, blueberry that and kiwi this. Well, I said the world is more cosmopolitan now, and the Nigerian palate is evolving. A good chunk of the fruits in British supermarkets are imported. We were not speaking face to face, but it wouldn’t have been far-fetched to imagine her rolling her eyes. Her counter argument – importation of fruits is due to the historical circumstance of this country doing trade with many countries, the slave trade era, and bringing back foods from conquered nations, besides the British farming industry cannot grow the volume needed to feed the population. Nigeria doesn’t have that problem. She went on about how we are always too eager to throw away what we have to the detriment of something foreign even when it will cost more. I said to her, to run a successful business, catering to people of a certain social class:
- You have to tap into their Ego. It is why Apple is the most successful brand in the world today. It is why even in the recession, luxury brands are doing very well. Tap into the Ego of a consumer and you have a lifetime access to their Wallet. I would know, Apple and Canon, can tap into my bank account, anytime. Teehee.
- The smoothie/juice bar industry, is the forte of the rich/upper middle class. They are well-travelled, well-educated, a good number of them are expatriates, “I just got backs” and returnees, so they would want to enjoy things they previously could only get outside the country – it is the major reason why the wedding industry has exploded today.
Oh, she chipped in and said it was still possible, it all depends on packaging and marketing. I said to her that all over the world, it is the rich that influence culture and change. Cast your mind back to the scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway’s character laughed about the colour of a belt. To her non fashion mind, they all looked blue, but Meryl’s character explained how a luxury fashion house (can’t remember the name now) premiered a shade of blue during fashion week and it spiralled down the fashion chain to the cheap blue sweater, Anne’s character was wearing. The rich influence change, and it trickles down to the masses, because everyone wants to be them, have what they have, emulate their lifestyle, be it fashion, music, food, they call the shots, and if you want to serve them, you do what they want.
- Unfortunately, and I use that word lightly, those who went into the business of catering to the rich, quickly realised that they would want all things foreign, and capitalised on it. Business and Patriotism have never been in bed together. Enter Western companies who outsourced to India and China. The bottom line rules at the end of the day
Oh she didn’t agree. I said to her, it is how it is. It is how the world works. If you go into business marketing pure Nigerian smoothies/juice, it would go belly up very fast. She said but Dunni, you are living proof that Nigerian ingredients ROCK!!!!, and my response was, it is a passion not driven by business. If I started Dooney’s Kitchen as a business, who knows, I probably would have succumbed to the rules of the money god. Which is why I am eternally grateful for The Grace to be able to do this for the joy of doing it. Not worrying about money has helped me flourish. My mind is unencumbered and it makes me more creative. I have spent a small fortune on photography gear in the past few weeks. The kind that if I was running this as a business, I would have paused, but I need to grow photography wise, and they don’t come cheap. The next target now is how to turn that creativity into profit, backed by the zeal to educate people, that it can be done. 30 years from now, if we are not careful our grandchildren would think strawberries grow in Nigeria. The way British kids think mangoes are native to Great Britain. You would be shocked how many kids in the UK think Satay Chicken and Curry’s are native to Britain.
- The Marketing psychology of value. I learnt that from Uncle Joko, on my last trip home. People pay for an item based on its perceived value. Imported fruits are expensive, so if you charge lets say 3 thousand Naira for a cup of smoothies, people have a perceived value of its contents and would pay up. Now, try charging 3K for a cup of smoothies made with Nigerian ingredients, and your clients would go, “for what”. Your running costs (and we all know how high those are in Nigeria), are the same, whether you use foreign or local ingredients, the same process to make the smoothies, but to charge more, your products have to have a higher perceived value.
Then she said, sooooooo, what is the way forward? how can we ensure that what makes us, doesn’t disappear on the altar of foreign capitalism. I said to her, that it won’t because unless some major economic overhaul happens, the rich and middle class will always be a minority, so our fruits and veg are going nowhere. Besides, people like me will always be there making sure that it won’t. We are cooking differently, we have a word or two for those who doggedly insist on the traditional way, we can’t then turn around in the same breath and wonder what strawberries are doing in local smoothie and juice bars. Change is like a ball rolling down a hill, you can’t pick and choose which things attach to it as it moves.
I was making Edikang Ikong last weekend and I had some leftover Ugu. As I was putting it away, I came across my frozen pineapple chunks in the freezer, and I suddenly remembered the conversation from weeks ago. I needed one more thing to complete it. I didn’t want to use Yoghurt or Ice cream – we are trying to be healthy, then I remembered that I had Tigernut milk in the freezer courtesy Labake. …..and that people is how my true Nigerian smoothie was born. Yum, Yum, Yums, considering I am supposed to hate Green smoothies. This was awesome raised to the power of 100. Over the course of the next few months, I would be releasing a couple more Nigerian smoothie recipes. We need more of them. We are a nation of a bucketload of fruits. Before you go paying 3k for a teeny tiny cup of smoothie, just head to your local market and let the sight and sounds inspire you.
You will need
Chopped Ugu leaves
Your choice of fruit – banana, pineapple, oranges……go to town with Nigerian fruits
Non Dairy milk – soy milk, coconut milk, Tiger nut milk
As with a smoothie – chuck it all in a blender and whizz. I wanted it to be rich and creamy, so I did not add water. Here, you have Ugu leaves, banana and orange juice
whizz in a blender or smoothie maker till smooth. If you want it really cold, blend with ice cubes
…………………..here you go. Peep into the jar, and be amazed at how pretty it looks, and how deliciously healthy it is. The creaminess from the banana and the yellow of the orange juice, produced a stunning smoothie. It tastes quite nice too, I promise you
Another flavour combination – Ugu, pineapple and Tigernut milk – Kunu aya. This is dark, and rich and naturally sweetened. Very nutritious.
Now, let’s play a game of, how much would you be willing to pay for a Nigerian Smoothie –
if it is packaged like this – be honest now
Stay tuned for more Ugu combinations, smoothies and more.
I will also be experimenting with other Nigerian Veggies
Disclaimer: this post was not written to offend anyone in the juice/smoothie bar business in Nigeria.