One of the growing international product categories is goods made from coconuts.
The health, and taste, benefits of coconut oil and coconut milk have caused a rise in demand for these types of product
In Kenya, hundreds of thousands of coconuts are grown each year, and yet were not processed into these high value goods.
In this episode I talk with Sakina from Kentaste, Kenya’s first coconut good producer.
We discuss the process of making coconut products from their coastal factory, knocking on doors at supermarkets to get listed and then paid and how to use coconut oil with your dog
As a consumer of Kentaste products, which is part of why I wanted to go and interview them, I can also say that it’s really good stuff.
In any case, I hope you enjoy this packed interview with Sakina about all things coconuts
Here are some of the key quotes:
“Oil, milk and cream”
These are the main coconut products that we produce since 2012. I head up the Sales & Marketing.
“Our farmers supply exclusively to us”
We collect coconuts from up and down the coast, bring them to our factory and then process them into products.
Supply to both of our companies. One is Kentaste, the other is just oil for export.
“There’s a different processes”
Milk and cream in one way, oil in another. We have to decide how we’ll use a coconut as you can’t do both.
“We choose based on demand”
The oil is a higher margin product, but we decide what to make based on orders that come in.
“Kentaste is in all major supermarkets”
Some buy huge volumes directly from us, though almost all of our customers buy through a supermarket in Kenya.
“The challenge is in getting paid”
Working with supermarkets is difficult. They say they’ll pay in 60 days, but it ends up being 120+ days. This makes running the business really difficult.
“Cash flow is so difficult in this industry”
We’re at the mercy of when supermarkets will pay us, and so we’re always seeking out investment options that can help with us getting cash in the business.
“It’s difficult to get listed in any supermarket”
The process is long-winded, requiring sending samples and price lists. They often forget about you and so it requires you to follow up incessantly.
“Every week we go to the supermarkets”
We go to the Head Offices of each supermarket on rotation, knocking on doors to make sure that they don’t forget about us.
“If sales start moving, orders keep coming”
Though if they’re not, then work needs to be done on markeing to get people buying more. They won’t tell you if sales are down, it’ll just be that the orders stop.
“Middle to upper class, mostly women”
Are the major demographic. A lot are using coconut oil for cosmetic reasons. We know this from supermarket data but also talking to customers at trade shows.
“We’re the only local producers of coconut products”
Compared to imported alternatives. Everything about Kentaste is local, all the way down to where we “source” our employees…
“It’s not an easy business to run…”
Which might be why we’re the only guys doing it. Sometimes there are no coconuts which farmers can bring to us, and there are issues with running a manufacturing business professionally.
“Coconuts grow best at the coast”
The climate is better grown here, rather than in Nairobi. In the rainy season, the farmers can’t climb the trees to bring them down which affects supply. Most is from just having coconuts on their plot of land rather than commercial farms.
“We can roll out products within a day”
If we get coconuts in the morning, then by the afternoon we have tins of coconut milk ready to go.
“Kentaste is ‘The Kenyan Taste'”
It’s not wholly associated with coconuts but with all-natural products, such as flour and other products. For coconuts, we’re also thinking scented baby oils and cosmetics.
“Use coconut oil with your animals”
Add it to their shampoo to give them a glossy coat of fur and remove fleas.