After graduating from Hawassa University, Henok Abera, like most other university graduates in the country, had trouble finding a job. To make ends meet until his big break he started doing marketing for companies at expos and exhibitions. During this time, he noticed something; the country had a shortage of peanut butter manufacturers.

This realization inspired his market-savvy mind and soon enough he bought a grinding machine, hired one employee to assist him, and started distributing his product to any retailers he could find under the brand name “WOW peanut butter”. While his company initially processed only 30kg of peanuts a day, over the years the company has grown exponentially and processes more than 600kg a day and has a large workforce as well as several heavy duty machines.

What makes WOW peanut butter unique from competitors is that the brand does not use any additives in its product. According to Henok, other competitors like Yami, Harga, and Harer, as well as imported brands from the US and India typically use sugar, salt, or acetic acid in their products.

Despite the success the company has had based on this branding, things have not been easy. One of the biggest challenges the company faces is the lack of access to modern machinery. Henok stresses this as the biggest problem as it affects productivity as well as labor and capital efficiency. Currently, all the machines the company uses are locally manufactured and outdated.

The issue with machinery is further exacerbated by financial constraints within the market. Unique for “WOW” is that fact that raw materials are sourced and paid for in cash but many of the company’s customers purchase the final product on credit. This dynamic is problematic due to the fact that most competitors have access to larger capital meaning they can afford to function in this manner without having to limit their activities.

Henok is not one to bemoan his situation, however, and says that what they lack in finances and machinery, they make up for it in marketing campaigns. Distributors are the most important factor for visibility, but Henok wants to move into the digital marketing world and be part of the drive to modernize the business culture of the nation.

If “WOW” peanut butter continues to enjoy the success it has had so far, Henok plans on diversifying product lines along with modernizing practices. While the company is sticking to peanut butter for now, Henok hopes to start producing peanut butter snacks, powder, and oil within the near future. With hard work and a bit of luck, those at “WOW” are hoping to become integral to every household’s breakfast routine and we cannot wait!

How we made it in Africa

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