The business of soup

The business of soup

MASERU – WITH the majority of Basotho living on less than one US dollar a day, meat is a luxury many cannot afford.
But thanks to ’Makhoboso Shale and her three co-workers, there is now a healthy alternative on the market.
Shale, 54, has since 2008 been producing minestrone soup and soya mince soup.
It has not been an easy journey though.

Minestrone soup is made up of onions and garlic, carrots, celery, basil, oregano, thyme, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaf.
Other ingredients may be dry uncooked pasta, vegetable broth, water and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.
Soya mince is an inexpensive and easy-to-use alternative source of protein.

It is made from the by-product (defatted soya flour) that is produced when extracting soya oil.
Soya mince is often then flavoured to mimic the taste of chicken, beef and other meat flavours in order to act as a meat replacement.
Shale and her co-workers started producing the soup in 2011 but they had to close down their business after they failed to meet the standards set by the Food and Nutrition Coordination Office (FNCO).

“When presenting our product to FNCO, we were told that we started with small ingredients,” she said.
She added: “We sold all that was on our shelves and thereafter had to work on improving hence we went to school last year.”
However, “we continued producing for schools only.”
Shale said had they started on the right track, they would be smelling success by now.

She indicated that the market is very promising as they started supplying the Lesotho Correctional Service, Ministry of Social Development, primary schools and some supermarkets.
“But still, there is a dire need for more as some Chinese refused to buy our product. We want every family to eat it and the government should support us by granting us an opportunity to supply (its institutions),” she said.

She said competition is very high but their main competitor is Imana, a highly versatile product that, when mixed with water and cooked for 10-15 minutes, creates a delicious, appetising soup.
“This is because most Basotho got used to Imana as the first nutritive soup,” Shale said.

She said they import most of the ingredients while they still buy sugar beans within the country.
However, the major challenge they encounter is that they have to deal with the weevil pest (tšupa).
She called on Basotho to harvest vegetables and thereafter they will train them on how to dry them in a clean manner to maintain the set standards.
“We will buy dried vegetables and this way money will circulate within the country,” she said.

Moreover, she mentioned that since its establishment, they had managed to hire 18 people.
“I am excited with this achievement as I know that helping one Mosotho helps to reduce the high rate of corruption as unemployment leads to theft and prostitution.”
She said they want to own a factory “to hire more Basotho and have a huge turnover that will help vulnerable people like we used to do before”.
She said they had received positive feedback from most clients.

“But, there is still a long way to go,” she said.
Shale said they still need machines that help to mix the ingredients and package the product.
“Now, we are doing everything manually,” she said.

For now, she said they are distributing in certain districts but “since (we have) improved our knowledge, we are hopeful that we will reach both national and international level”.
She said selling more soup “will help us to produce more and it will enable us to own the market as there will be no need to import soup”.
She said they train other people basing themselves on standards set by the Ministry of Agriculture regarding harvesting.
They also work with the Ministry of Small Businesses, which has spread word about them to other ministries.

“The collaboration we have with them is outstanding as they want to see our business growing,” she said.
She added: “In January, the Ministry of Small Businesses will help us to supply hypermarkets such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay.”

’Mapule Motsopa


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