The increasing drive by young, creative and resourceful Nigerian youth to survive against all economic challenges has brought out the best in many of them. In fact, not a few have ventured into the highly competitive food industry and are coming up with nutritious meals. Miss Ijomah Ujunwa, a 25-year-old indigene of Anambra state who is still an undergraduate of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State happens to be one of them.
In line with our holistic perspective on the food industry, beyond the promotion of well-established national and multi-national food and beverage companies to those still grappling with how to make headway we had an interaction with her.
The idea to start Meafoods began in 2018 but took off in 2019. In her words: “What inspired me is that I am a lover of healthy swallow foods. But I noticed that people always complain about too much starch in their daily foods, with some of having diabetes and other ailments such as high blood pressure and stroke.
“After a sober reflection, I thought to myself, why don’t I produce food items that one can eat, keep fit and have a strong immune system? So, I began to make researches and I found lots of healthy nuts, grains and other crops that are very healthy.”
On the nature of Meafood products she explained that Tiger nut fufu contains tiger nut and chia seeds. It is a swallow food that is eaten with all kinds of soup such as afan, oha, egusi, eforiro and ogbono.
As for Sorghum (Guinea corn/Dawa), it is purely sorghum.. Like Tigernut it goes with any local soup. On its part, Plantain fufu is made from purely plantain as another swallow food.
Soybean milk powder contains soybean, plantain, crayfish, groundnut, dates, tigernut, banana and millet. It is milk used in drinking pap (akamu). It also goes with tea, oat, custard and can be taken as an energy-giving drink.
While the Peanut butter goes with bread, the cocoyam powder is a soup thickener.
On a general note their prices, ranging from N3,000 to N13,500 depending on the product are affordable as they come in 2.5kg, 5kg and 10kg.
On their nutritional benefits she says that: “These foods are well packed with lots of nutrients and vitamins. They are healthy for diabetic patients, help to reduce obesity in the system, prevent colon cancer, helps boost the immune system, and boost blood cell production.
“They also help the brain to function well. They help to boost low sperm count, increase breast milk flow, I and recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers.
As usual, there were some initial challenges to confront. “My challenges include finance and visibility. But I am overcoming the visibility part. However, for finance, the rise and fall of the Dollar is seriously affecting me but I am still maneuvering it bit- by-bit”.
On the cost implications of starting a small healthy fufu/ food business she has this to say: “ One can start up with Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200,000). One has to buy small sealing machine, small grinding machine, dehydrator, in addition to buying of the nuts, grains and crops “.
On her marketing strategies and how effective they have been, Ijomah stated that: “I use all social media because I am also in the popular marketing group on Facebook called Spangler Market and Vent Square. I also get contacts of people who want to be my distributor across Nigeria from some of my customers. Gradually, these means are yielding fruits.
It is worthy of note, that based on increasing demand from her customers she is considering running a training program to increase public awareness. What this means is that Meafoods is currently enjoying some level of patronage and she has to enhance their potentials.
Nonetheless, she still needs some support from the government to improve on her productivity. According to her: “I want the government to help me make the value of Naira to rise again because it’s seriously affecting my business, the rise and fall of price is becoming unbearable for me. Transportation is another hell problem because waybill price is becoming frustrating.
As for electric power supply we are equally urging the government for a steady supply. With generators we have come to adjust to the unsteady supply as a Nigerian. But it could be much better”.
For Nigeria to become self-sufficient in the production of agro products this is her position: “In my opinion, I want Nigeria to try and make farmers’ life and property their priority. This is because with the way farmers are running away from their farm lands because of insurgency, the production of these crops, nuts and grains is deteriorating and making the supplies of these foods not scarce and costly for everyone”.
On her piece of advice to people coming into this unique business newly this is her admonition: “My piece of advice for anyone that would love to venture into my business the person needs to be patient. He or she needs to understand that this field of business is unique. It will require a lot of ones sacrifice, time and energy to get to where he/or she wants. No business is easy, it’s consistency that is the key”.
On a general note, she wants the public to know that: “Meafoods are not for specific people. They are for the whole family. We have lots of products that suit every member of the family. We have children and adults foods. We are here to make people eat well and eat healthy, while keeping fit and staying away from illness.”