A youth-run family business in Harare is trailblazing the healthy food industry in Africa by providing nutritious options while sourcing from local farmers to increase food security and promote healthy eating.
By Kuda Chideme, Bird Story Agency
In 2017, Lesley Marange, a young food scientist in Zimbabwe, quit his job at a local sugar processor citing poor remuneration. Today he is the founder and CEO of Glytime Foods, a healthy food startup with over 40 employees, exporting across Africa and growing to be a global brand.
“I wanted to change the way things were by thinking out of the box‚Ä¶ just revolutionise how Zimbabweans think about food and their health,” he said, speaking at his office in Workington, Harare, “That is how and why Glytime Foods was born.”
Marange and his wife Talent Marange run the company, which produces food products including vegan foods, a wide range of healthy cereals and snacks, as well as honey. And though relatively new, Glytime Foods already enjoys a good market share.
“The reception for our products has been good. We command very good shop space. Our product is up there competing with foreign brands. We even now have some private equity deals that are ongoing but unfortunately, I can’t disclose the details at the moment until they have been finalised.” Marange said.
When he started in 2018, the 33-year-old had the idea and ambition but no capital. So he turned to his elder brother for a loan of 50,000 rands (US$ 2,700) which he added to their savings and started Glytime Foods. Food scientist Talent Marange did not at the time quit formal employment, however, as she had to stay on to fend for the family while her husband established the enterprise.
“There was a change in lifestyle as we put all the little money we had into the business. We had to adjust, but I will be honest we did not ever go to bed hungry,” she said.
“We were running the whole operation from the cottage we were renting. We shared the bedroom with our stock. It was the warehouse,” Lesley Marange added.
For Marange, Glytime is more than a profit-making venture. He describes his business as a social enterprise.
“It’s not just the product that’s different but also the way we do our business. Looking at our structure, you will see that we are trying to support sustainability in the local value chain. We have partnered with about 3,000 local farmers to guarantee them access to markets,” he said.
“We have seen how non-governmental organisations and even the government usually start programmes with local farmers in some communities but in the end leave them struggling to compete and get access to markets on their own. So this is the gap that we are trying to fill.”
Glytime sources its raw materials directly from local farmers under its out-grower partnership. Marange explained that the scheme not only capacitates local farmers but also ensures that Glytime has an uninterrupted supply of raw materials.
Tsitsi Sibanda, a honey farmer, in a video posted on the company’s website, said: “We had been struggling with accessing markets. We would go for as long as six months without buyers, but now, with the Glytime partnership, we have a guaranteed buyer.”
Glytime foods is mostly a youth-staffed company. Almost 70% of their employees are below 30 years. Women comprise most of the staff, and 5% of their employees are people with disabilities.
In 2021, the Institute of Corporate Directors of Zimbabwe awarded Marange the Young Director of the Year. His business has also received recognition from the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce for its Innovation. Earlier this year, Talent Marange was the guest speaker at the launch of an Africa Development Bank-funded facility that helps startup companies to structure bankable projects. Glytime Foods was also recognised as a youth-led business.
Chad Mhako, a strategic consultant who helps startup companies, said Glytime’s success is a testament to how young Africans can develop their ideas and grow exports.
“Young people are stepping up to make ingenuity, originality, productivity and honest hard work trend in Zimbabwe. Glytime Foods’ export quality products are unparalleled on the market. Inspired! Buy local,” he said.
But it’s not always been smooth sailing for the family business: “Government bureaucracy is one of the toughest challenges I have to deal with regularly,” Marange revealed.
Nevertheless, Glytime Foods has set its sights on the export market. They are currently exporting to Zambia, are registered in the Botswana Special Economic Zone, and finalising contracts in countries including Mozambique and DRC.
“We are working on certification to push our product into the Comesa market. In five years, we want Glytime Foods to be a brand that competes with the world’s best and gives real value to farmers through partnerships,” Marange said.
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