Ogechi Okelu’s love for food creativity led her from a career as a pharmacist to a desire to recreate indigenous Nigerian snacks. Many Nigerians grew up eating snacks which were only largely available in rural areas but Ogechi is repackaging local snacks in healthy and hygienic ways through her small scale food factory to help reach more people.
She shared her thoughts with SLA on where traditional foods fit in with weight loss and on her journey so far.
Why start a business with indigenous snacks?
Nigeria has a wide variety of healthy and creative snacks and meals. These have been lost over time and are not in high demand among the urban and elite groups.
This is mainly because of the preparation process and packaging but also due to Westernisation. I’m working on recreating some of these snacks in a healthier and more appealing way for the world to enjoy.
Tell us a bit about Kozee
My brand has been registered as a trademark and it’s called Kozee. My first product is my brand of kulikuli. Kulikuli is an indigenous snack made from groundnut paste that is quite popular in the northern part of Nigeria.
I grew up eating this lovely snack. It is really versatile and can be eaten alone or in combination with other meals. Typically, people eat it broken into soaked garri but modern foodies use kulikuli as salad or parfait toppings, blended into smoothies and also to spice roasted beef or chicken.
I am currently at the last stage of registration with NAFDAC, the Nigerian body that is responsible for the registration and quality control of food, drugs and cosmetics in Nigeria. They ensure that standard quality is maintained at all times and that standard operating procedures are adhered to by carrying out site inspections at factories and also running quality control tests on products at their labs.
Where do indigenous and traditional foods fit in weight loss and healthy living?
The main challenge with weight loss is portion control. We have a wide variety of traditional foods that are rich in fibre and minerals and are not over processed. A lot of our local foods however, have not been scientifically analysed, so we can’t be certain as to how many calories they contain or their nutritional value.
This drives a lot of people who are particular about weight loss and healthy living to buy the imported products that have clear nutritional facts written on them. Researching on and repackaging our traditional foods will encourage more people to patronise Nigerian products and therefore boost the economy.
How has your background as a pharmacist helped your hustle?
As a pharmacist, I have learnt a lot about the importance of quality control and microbial contamination and this has helped me set high standards for myself, my factory and my product. Kulikuli has been made for centuries in the rural areas by hard working women who use a lot of manual processes from start to finish. This makes it difficult to produce large quantities of kulikuli in a healthy and hygienic way. I have been able to substitute a large part of the manual process using food grade machinery.
I am also a pharmaceutical sales person, this has taught me a lot about sales, marketing and running a business.
Where do you see Kozee in the next year?
I currently deliver only in Abuja but am in talks to supply other major cities in Nigeria.
I want my products to be available for purchase across Nigeria and hopefully abroad in the nearest future.
What is your passion and how do you sustain it?
I am a foodie who is also very passionate about healthy living.
My passion for healthy food keeps me focused on coming up with creative ideas that I believe can help redefine our traditional and indigenous foods.
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