INGREDIENTS: Small Packages, Ready To Go
ITEMS such as crayfish, pepper, garlic, egusi and other spices are now sold in powdery form and in any small quantities. Even vegetables like fruited pumpkin, bitter-leaf, scent leaf and others are also available in the market, sliced and neatly packaged for immediate use.
Despite the packaging, these food condiments and vegetables still feel fresh and do not lose taste. According to Madam Ilo, a dry foodstuff dealer, the idea of packaging food ingredients is meant for housewives and singles that are on the go. “These group of people are usually too busy to go into markets to haggle for prices; so, we have to prepare and package dry stuffs for them. With this, they just pick up the items at a fixed price; it is like buying from departmental stores.
The prices are fixed and you do not haggle,” she noted. On how she identifies the items the people want, Ilo revealed that it is through observation and the use of her sixth sense. “ I had to find out what most of the people want and I package it for them. Sometime, I ask people from certain parts of the country to tell me their major food ingredients and I go out to get them for my clients.
For instance, I package fresh and dried okra, sliced fruited pumpkin leaves, achi, ugbotoro, a common spice among the Igbo, and others. “For this, clients see me as a one-stop-shop for their dry food stuff. Some even give me their orders in advance and they have never been disappointed,” she said.
How rewarding is this? “I make more money doing this. I am like a food contractor; I make thrice the money I made selling unpackaged items. One of the advantages is that clients do not need to haggle much to buy.
Once you win their trust and they know that the items are fresh, if they are leaves, or the aromas are strong if they are spices, they will buy. They are too busy to debate prices or go to market to crosscheck prices,” Ilo said.
For Funke Adegbenro, packaging salad and fried rice ingredients is a business that puts one in the position of a chef. “I think as if I am the one that needs the food and has to put every item needed to make a delicious salad or fried rice together. Sometimes, clients tell me what to get for them and within the limited time provided I get them.
In this business, one has to learn the different ways to cook a particular meal. “To an average Nigerian, making salad entails getting cabbage, carrot, lettuce leaves, green beans, peas (optional), baked beans, cucumber and salad cream, while some would want you to add cooked liver. It’s all a matter of taste and we are ever ready to get them,” she said.
On what motivates her to remain in the business, Funke disclosed: “It’s the money, I make money supplying homes and even selling retails. I make an average of N20,000 a week and during festive periods, I make more; sometimes between N30,000 to N50,000. The fruits and vegetables are all available in the country.
I go to Mile 12, Iddo and any rural market in Lagos and environs to get them.” While some sell their wares in kiosks, Josephine Eke believes in going from one office to the other, displaying her stuff. Eke, who has been in the business for over 10 years said she sells dried stockfish head and smoked fish. “Since the high profile people depend on their house helps to do their shopping and other chores, I take my items to them in their offices. I package stockfish, cut them into pieces for customers.
I also package smoked fish in a way that would attract anybody to buy. I chop the hard stockfish into bits for easy cooking. I also separate the bones from flesh; though there are clients who demand for the bones, I sell the flesh higher because it is more delicious. “I sell a pack between N500 and N2,500, depending on the size and the nature of the stockfish.
And for ordinary dry fish, the prices are not too different; in fact, some go for N3,000. I make close to N180,000 per month doing this. The business is good, all I do is take stock of what my clients want, supply them and return to them at a fixed date to collect my money.
I even combine it with running store in the open market. “Apart from the fish, I also supply scenting and Ukazi leaves, ground crayfish, snails and pkomo.
I go to the rural people, where I get it cheap, treat with salt to my satisfaction, then package and sell,” she noted. What would it take to begin the business? Josephine disclosed that small packaging and supply business is not a thing one should rush into.
According to her any new entrant must first learn the trick from those already in the business, because most buyers wait till month end to pay and if one does not have enough more to run the business, it then means closing shop. “Though we make good money, any new person in the business has to study how it is done.
It is not an all comers business. If one considers the way money comes into it and jumps into it, he/she would be disappointed to find out that the level of risk is almost equal to the gains.
It is a venture that requires good public relations to excel,” she noted. Between the packaged items and the unpackaged, which brings in more money, Madam Adaku said it all depends on the position of the seller. “I sell both.
I also help buyers, especially bachelors and very busy spinsters, to put together what they need to prepare their pots of soup or any meal that I am conversant with.
Times have changed and it’s no longer news that one can get virtually all the ingredients, including the leaves, one needs to prepare a pot of soup or cook any meal at a spot. “I cannot really place figures to how much I make in a month, but I must say I make enough money that have enabled me to contribute enormously to my family upkeep, built a house and support my children’s university education. “However, it must be noted that customers prefer the wrapped items.
I cannot tell exactly why it is so, but I know each time I want to sell quickly my food ingredient I put them in small wraps. Apart from the economy, packaging the items in different sizes allows for choice and it is always to the sellers advantage.” she said.
For Amaka, who has been selling only fruited pumpkin since 2002, packaging the leaf in small quantities is another way to promote sale and maintain hygiene. “I have no other business than selling fruited pumpkin, either in their stalks or in small packaging.
I make close to N100,000 a month apart from the N5,000 daily contributions I make with a micro-finance bank. I go around farms buying them. And because I always supply, people have identified me with the leaf and it has never been a bad business,” she said.