On Monday I spent the morning chatting to local shopkeepers
about juice in the town of Kasungu. The general response was that
people want healthy drinks and that most people don't know that
concentrates aren't healthy for you. There are loads of South
African imported concentrated juices available already so I was
hoping that with a bit of market analysis, I'd have a better idea
of what price we could suggest for the juice once I got to
So, Alfred and I hopped in one of the Microloan cars and headed
through a game reserve/jungle to get to the lakeside town of
Nkhotakota. We took a turn off the main tarmac road and arrived at
the Chigwirizano Juice Co-op.
After a week of research, this was one of the main reasons I was
here. Again, we were greeted with lots of singing and general
happiness and, without sounding too gushing, it was a sight
something everyone at innocent and all our drinkers should be
pretty proud of.
After introductions, I told the ladies there all about innocent.
That AGM booklet I'd nabbed before leaving has been so useful to
explain to people here about what we do (you can have a look for
We then had a tour round the old juice factory and the new
factory, which has been built through
MicroVentures. Some of the money for this new factory was
donated by the innocent foundation. MicroVentures is part of the
Foundation and helps people with bigger projects or projects
that require more capital to start (for example, beehives and
sewing). It was really great to see something clearly tangible as a
result of the funding. The new factory has a tin roof which means
it’s a lot less dusty and the floors are of a much better quality
of compressed concrete which makes it much easier to clean and
therefore more hygienic.
The new factory is on the left. The old one will be used for
material storage, change rooms and some knitting training.
The ladies had prepared a load of Bwemba and
for us so we walked through the process from start to finish. It
was quite similar to the process I had seen before with a few minor
tweaks. I'd never seen Bwemba before.
Again, it is a crop that is grows in abundance in the local area.
As well as the loan from MLF, the co-operative have also been
trained for free in good juice making practice by a government
agricultural department team. Everyone wears hair nets and aprons
but with my fat head, I had to settle for this rather fetching
Crushing and squeezing the juice pulp from the stones. Here we are
The tour made it very clear that capacity wasn't the issue to
increasing the sales. They can make a lot more juice than they are
currently making so we needed to come up with a few new plans for
the business. Before doing that though, I shared a few of the
learnings I had picked up in the last week.
One of the items that got everyone really excited was the Baobab
jam I had picked up in a small refinery in Blantyre. This is made
from the seeds of the Baobab and is therefore another useful side
product that could be sold within the co-op. I bought a jar for my
mum but everyone wanted to try it so out came the spoon and the
chairman of the group dished us all out a huge clump (sorry, Mum).
It was pretty funny watching everyone getting involved in the jam
and lead to even more singing. You'll have to wait for the video
I also picked up a few mini plastic bags from a bottle supplier
I met when I was down in Blantyre. I thought might serve as an
alternative to plastic bottles as bottles are expensive and not in
regular supply. So, we packed juice into these bags for the first
time ever and will be running a trial this week in the market to
see if they take off.
Not quite the high tech filling machines we have in our factories
but just as effective. Here's the juice being poured into the new
More updates in my next blog.