Oyedipe: Bringing back on shelves locally made chocolate brands
Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest cocoa growers but evidence of that is not visible whenever you move round in the cities, especially when you look at shelves of major stores, because local production of derivative from the cocoa beans are not common.
What you will probably see in the supermarkets and stores are loads of foreign produced chocolates such as Lindt and Twix, all imported from overseas because Nigeria exports almost all of its cocoa beans.
Most of the attempts to produce chocolate locally in the past fizzle out with time due to infrastructural challenges and lack of capital to build domestic capacity.
A local firm Matrix, located along Ibadan-Lagos Expressway has shut down few years ago due to huge indebtedness to the country’s Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which inherited some bad loans from some banks in 2010.
The company’s plants and other equipment are rotting away due to lack of usage as the ‘bad bank’ closed down the multi-billion naira factory as the owners were unable to pay back loans borrowed to established the company.
Today, there is a small scale investor, who have dared into the chocolate production industry in a bit to promote locally manufactured brands.
Today, if you go to some superstores in Lagos and other parts of the country, you may likely find among the foreign bars there’s also Loshes, made by Femi Oyedipe, who saw an opportunity in the gap between the country’s cocoa exports and its lack of domestic chocolate brands.
“The agenda is to promote as best as we can, locally produced chocolate products to meet our local needs, that can compete globally on the shelves alongside international brands.”
With a mid-crop of between 50,000 and 60,000 tons, Nigeria is the world’s fifth-biggest cocoa grower but the imported bars are usually cheaper than domestic products.
Oyedipe, who set up her business using personal savings, donations from friends and family and some government support, said she was unable to compete on prices from the imported brands and instead she decided to focus on quality, with chocolate that has no additives or preservatives.
“Loshes Chocolate is that little drop of water trying to make a mighty ocean. You know we are doing our best to create and add value to that sector in Nigeria, so it will take a lot more people wanting to do this to have the sort of impact that we are wanting to have.”
Part of the challenge is infrastructure: Loshes, in the commercial capital Lagos, faces an erratic power supply and is often forced to run on a power generator for days at a time as Oyedipe grinds cocoa beans.
But the challenges are not getting in the way of her ambition.
Having started out in 2016 turning 60 kilograms of beans into chocolate per quarter, she now gets through six tons a year and eventually wants to expand to a factory with a capacity of 72 tonnes.
-With Reuters report