We covered snack foods as a good area of entry into the business. One particular snack food area we mentioned was dried fruit. Zimbabwe is reasonably well set up for a dried fruit snack business. You have an abundance of fruits of different kinds and a climate that helps the process along somewhat. If you have ever given dried fruit snacks a thought then you should read on to be inspired and informed.
The business is a fairly simple one so let’s start with the supply of fruits. You would’ve chosen your fruits already, Zimbabwe has many options. Farmers appreciate predictable revenue so you will be better off entering agreements with them before harvest time. You may consider that in a bumper harvest prices may decline due to supply, however, you really can’t rely on this. Of course, you are likely to start small so you may not be looking at large quantities to start with. The quality however should never be compromised.
Equipment and storage
You have the option of sun-drying or machine drying. Each of these has its advantages and you would want to look at them and your resources to decide. I’m going to suggest sun drying in the early stages and upgrading to machinery later. To sundry, you only need temperatures of around 29 degrees and that is most of the year in Zimbabwe. If things work out for you and you intend to upgrade to machinery what you will need is called a dehydrator and you can see an example of one here.
You will also have to give some consideration to the storage of the fruit along the various stages of the process of drying it. You want to keep it safe from pests and other factors like moisture. The quantities of fruit you are looking at storing will play a part in how you store them.
The one thing I would recommend you do not compromise on is the packaging. Firstly there are hygiene and food safety issues when it comes to packaging. You want to choose packaging that will keep the snacks safe and in good condition as they travel. Secondly, you might want to be forward-looking and think about export markets and distribution through other channels. How will your packaging stack up on the shelves of local and international retailers? Finally, you may want to give some thought to the accessibility of the packaging. I recommend resealable plastic bags but you can make the idea your own if you find packaging that satisfies all these issues.
Finding distribution is a great way to grow the business however we should not underestimate the prospects of selling online and directly to customers. Products like these do very well online as well as in traditional channels. You will need to invest greatly init though. Creating a brand, a website with eCommerce and driving traffic there. This doesn’t mean a huge financial investment though. Online will work great when in the right hands for such a business. A physical store may be well worth it too.
Just like your packaging you have to give a lot of thought to your marketing. The customers who gravitate towards this sort of product usually fall into groups such as the health-conscious, environmentally friendly and vegan amongst others. This means you will have to tune into these communities and what appeals to them to figure out how to best position your products in the minds of people. Understanding these groups and their needs will make your marketing work much easier. These are not the only groups, you may find other groups such as children who will have an appreciation for these products. The point is for each group you identify you also need to figure them out.
There are so many fruits out there that people enjoy drying. Grapes (raisins), Plums (prunes), apricots, figs, cranberries, pears, jujubes (masawu), apples, pears, mangoes, litchis, tomatoes and bananas just to name a few.