Yoghurt Business: Dressed in a white overcoat and gumboots, it is easy to mistake the young bespectacled man for a milk hawker as he criss-crosses Bahati in Nakuru County purchasing raw milk from farmers.
Joseph Waweru makes a stop at one of the farmer’s gates. With his vehicle stationed at the gate, the farmer carries three cans of milk, which are weighed and the details recorded before being loaded onto the vehicle.
“I must capture every detail of the milk delivered because they will be crucial during payment,” says Waweru.
The 26-year-old is slowly making inroads in the lucrative yoghurt industry that is attracting new consumers each day.
He runs Winnas Dairies that is based in Nakuru County. The firm produces various flavours of yoghurt, including strawberry and vanilla, under the Winners brand name.
“I started the processing firm early last year, two years after graduating from Egerton University. It is now worth about Sh800,000.”
He has employed four people, including diploma graduates in dairy, sales and marketing.
Waweru collects the milk from farmers’ groups consisting of five to 10 members.
“They collect their milk and sell as a group. I then pay them at the end of the month or as agreed.”
Besides the groups, the businessman also buys milk from his father, who has a dairy farm in Nakuru.
“I credit my business to my father. It was while helping him sell his milk that the idea of making yoghurt came,” he recounts.
“My father has about 60 cows and he gets 400 to 500 litres of milk each day. He was selling a litre for as low as Sh20. I realised I could buy milk from him, add value and sell at a better price.”
He floated the idea in a family gathering and it was unanimously endorsed.
With Sh100,000 seed capital he had saved from his previous employment as an accounts assistant, Waweru bought a refrigerator and a sealer.
However, this money was not enough to get him started as he still needed a pasteuriser, which is critical in yoghurt processing.
“It was tough at the beginning. I would sometimes use firewood for heating, which was expensive.”
He later applied for funding from the Eastern African Agricultural Productivity Programme, which was impressed with his efforts and offered him a pasteuriser worth Sh350,000.
The pasteuriser saw him double his milk purchases from 150 litres a day to 300 litres. The farmers sell to him the milk at between Sh30 and Sh32.
Before he buys milk from farmers, Waweru says they conduct three tests, namely for smell to ascertain freshness as some farmers are cunning and milk their animals at night and deliver the milk in the morning.
The second is acidity test, where the acid levels are checked using a lactometer and third, the density test is carried out before the milk is accepted for processing.
“Our biggest challenge is getting high quality milk from farmers. There are times you cannot get what you need.”
To make yoghurt, the milk goes through several stages. Fresh milk is pre-heated to 50 degrees Celsius to allow the mixing of ingredients such as sugar.
It is then pasteurised to 90 degrees Celsius for between 25 to 30 minutes before it is cooled to 43 degrees Celsius and then starter culture is added.
It is then incubated for six hours as acidity level is monitored. The acceptable concentration of acidity in the milk should be between 0.13 to 0.16 per cent.
“The yoghurt is then cooled further to below 15 degrees Celsius and flavours and colours added before it is sealed and packaged for the market,” says Waweru, adding that his products are certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
He paid Sh32,000 for certification, an amount that he notes is too high for start-ups.
From the 300 litres he collects, Waweru makes up to 600 pieces of 500ml of yoghurt each day, which he sells at Sh60.
“This is better than what I used to earn when I was employed. I would get a salary of Sh40,000 per month but today I can comfortably pay myself a salary of Sh60,000 and still cater for my four employees’ wages,” says Waweru, who notes he started making profit few months ago.
Winnas Dairy located at Hyrax Hills off the busy Nakuru–Nairobi highway supplies its products to shops and supermarkets in the town.
“My goal is to have a footprint in all the major trading centres in Nakuru by 2017 before spreading to other counties.”
The former student of Nakuru Boys High School advises young people wishing to venture into the industry to develop a culture of saving whenever they are employed whether on permanent or temporary basis.
“One of the lessons I have learnt is that saving a shilling is not a bad idea as long one wants to achieve a noble goal,” says Waweru, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Agriculture and Applied Economics at Egerton University.
His plan is buy a cooler so that he can increase production and shift from his father’s plot to an independent venue.
Getting Kebs certification
1. Furnish Kebs with the kind of business you are engaged in and whether you are a large or small-scale entrepreneur.
2. Declare your turn-over and the value of your products per piece in the market so that you can be categorised as small or large-scale manufacturer.
3. State the venue of your operation.
4. Take the Kebs official through the process of making or preparing your products from the moment the raw produce arrives at your processing plant to the time it is ready to go to the market.
5. Take the sample of one or two of your products you prepared as the Kebs official toured your plant for inspection.
6. The sample is returned to you by Kebs with an accompanying note indicating whether they are satisfied or there are some issues you need to improve on.
7. If there are no issues to be addressed, Kebs issues a certificate but if there are issues, take another sample of the improved product for further testing. The procedure is reviewed after every one year.
The process cost Sh32,000 for small businesses.
Yoghurt Business: This feature was first published the Daily Nation.