Commercialising sales of fresh fruit juices with no preservatives and packaging is a demanding business that many would think is not viable, but Tomi Sanni, a lawyer, has been able to develop a model that makes it possible to keep three people in permanent employment and employ several others from time to time on temporary basis. She explains how to OLUYINKA ALAWODE.
I started Nature’s Best Juices this year. Before then, I was making the juices in my home for family consumption. When friends visit, I would serve them with it and when I visit some friends I would take along to give them. As a result, a lot of friends kept asking me to make for them, which I did freely. But the demand became so much that I could no longer give it free. Also, people I did not even know, after being served by the friends I had given, would come on their own to ask me to make for them. One of my pastors served a man and he came to look for me afterwards. I have a friend in Osogbo who buys for herself and the Government House there. After tasting it, someone contacted me from Osogbo to make orders. This wide acceptance and demand inspired me to launch it as a business.
In December last year, I built a production room in my compound. I started with one employee. By January this year, the business began full operations. To preserve, we put in bottles and freeze it rock hard. To take it out of town, the bottles are put in a cooler and it will not melt completely. As long as it is refrigerated, it can last for three weeks.
Raw materials- We buy fruits in bulk from wholesale fruit market at Ketu. To get good quality, I have discovered it is better I go rather than have them supply. I have taken two of the people working with me there and taught them how to select quality fruits on their own.
Preservation- There are already too many drinks in the market with additives, sweeteners, pasteurisers and so on. We call ourselves Nature’s Best because we do not add anything to it, we just freeze to preserve. This is important because people are getting very health conscious and promoting good health is the watchword of business. Healthy lifestyle involves cutting off sugar and all the additives from the food we consume. That is the reason I am producing fresh fruit juices for people who are conscious of their health, and thereby what they are taking in.
Regulations- I have made enquiries from the National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Since I intend to sell it fresh, I do not have to undergo the same registration process and obtain a NAFDAC number like other companies packaging juice. Nature’s Best sells directly to the consumers or end users as much as possible, and as fast as possible after production. It is not really producing the same kind of fruit drink as these other fruit juice manufacturing companies. We serve fresh at events like seminars, cocktails, luncheons or big parties like weddings, funerals, etc. We encourage people to promote healthy lifestyle by serving 100 percent natural fruit drinks at such occasions. We can even serve in packages provided by the organisers. Some people may want us to serve the juice in containers they have branded. We have served fresh juices at a birthday party using take-away containers branded with the name of the celebrant on her request. We can do this for wedding couples as well. We go with our fruit extractors to events, we take along our chillers and servers and use whatever containers the organisers desire. It can be cups, bottles, decanters, branded or not branded and as modest or flamboyant as they want. We produce on site.
Challenges- Though I have factored in the cost of power supply into the business plan, buying diesel has increased the cost of production.
Pricing- For events, we charge per litre. A litre can serve three people. The organiser decides how many litres. We do not mix the juice with water. The number of servers we take will depend on how large the party is. I have three permanent staff and we take as many temporary staff as we would need. Fresh fruit juices are no doubt more expensive than sugared drinks. But when people consider how much they spend to maintain good health or obtain good health after an illness, then taking healthy fresh fruit drinks is not as expensive in comparison.
We try to choose the best fruits, but one cannot always predict if the fruits will be juicy enough and that means more fruits – oranges, pineapples, water melon, and carrots, to get a litre. It may be because the fruit is not in season. One of our challenges is being able to ensure a balanced price even if the fruit is not in season.
Supplies- I supply some churches every Sunday. They serve their ministers fresh fruit juices. Some people order personally for their own consumption on a regular basis. If the customer has health conditions, we can recommend drinks. For someone who is diabetic for instance, we recommend one third carrots and then celery and cucumbers.
Background- I read law. I own a law firm at Ikeja. I got into fresh fruit production because I was always having pains in my back and knees. A neighbour who is a Reverend and also health minister, Tony Akinyemi moved in to my neighbourhood. He introduced me to raw fruits and juices when I told him about my health conditions. He encouraged me to buy a juicer which I did; and he gave me some books to read. I discovered that when one takes all these natural juices one feels better. Gradually, my husband and children also imbibed it. I also went online and did research. I want the business to survive beyond me, so I am working on the structure. My employees can now do it even without me. Last month, I was out of the country and they made profit even in my absence.
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