Nigeria has the continent’s largest economy and the most people. This combination also makes the country a hotbed of entrepreneurship and innovation. Despite its economic prosperity, the country continues to fall short on a variety of fronts.
The baby food industry is one such front. This is not just a Nigerian issue. Africa is said to import $600 million in infant food each year, with the figure expected to reach $1 billion by 2016.
This is due to Africa’s underutilized local infant food production. Adepeju Jaiyeoba, a Nigerian entrepreneur, seeks to fill the need. She is the founder of the Lagos-based baby food firm Colorful Giggles.
According to her, affordable and nutritious infant food is difficult to find in Nigeria and other African countries. This means that babies are fed a cheap and easily available staple crop to their families. Furthermore, healthy imported options provide their own set of issues, such as pricing and availability.
“If the family plants maize then that is the only food the baby is going to eat,” said Jaiyeoba to How We Made It In Africa. “If they plant soya beans then that is what the child will eat. The parents do not pay particular attention to the nutritional value and the mix of micro and macro nutrients that are important for children under the age of five”.
Jaiyeoba, a professional lawyer, founded her infant food production company with the goal of using Nigerian products to compete with leading foreign brands.Today, the company she founded in 2020 sells a variety of products ranging in price from $2 to $5, aimed at both middle-class Nigerian women and low-income homes.
The company now has six dishes that use local grains and perishables. One variation has wheat, cashew nuts, pawpaw, and banana, while another contains sweet potatoes, soya beans, cucumber, and dates, according to How We Made It In Africa. The ingredient blend is sold in a 300g box with instructions to produce a paste by adding water to the dry powder.
“Why can’t we have great food in Nigeria that is also high in nutrients? African based meals that provide excellent nutritional value for children. That is where the story of Colourful Giggles came from.”
Jaiyeoba worked with experts from around the world to acquire nutritious recipes as part of her ambition to compete with major companies. She began by sourcing grains from northern Nigeria and fruits and vegetables from a nearby collective owned by female farmers. Due to logistical obstacles, one of her key challenges was securing a consistent supply of grains from the northern regions.
“Something could be happening on the expressway, there could be a blockage, but the key is to place your orders well before you need them,” she explained.