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Dried fruits: Tapping into the snack market in Lagos

Entrepreneurship

To address unhealthy snacking in Nigeria, award-winning entrepreneur, Affiong Williams, is providing a healthy alternative with her range of nutritious dried fruit and nut products.

Affiong Williams started her fruit processing company, ReelFruit, in February 2012 in a small apartment in Surulere, Lagos. She established the business using around €7,000 of her own personal savings, as well as investments from friends and family. Williams came up with the idea of producing dried fruit snacks – a first-of-its-kind in Nigeria – in 2012, and ReelFruit launched its range of dried mango and pineapple in March, 2013. Today, the company’s products are distributed across Nigeria and exported to Central African countries, as well as to France, Switzerland and the UK.

Initially stocked by just one supermarket chain in Lekki, Lagos, ReelFruit’s range of six unique snack products are now retailed in over 250 stores in Nigeria, as well as supplied to local and international airlines, schools, hotels and restaurants. The products include 40 g, 50 g and 1 kg packets of dried banana, cashew, coconut, mango, and pineapple, as well as fruit and nut mixes, targeting health-conscious consumers. In 2018, ReelFruit also launched ‘Frootie Tooties’, a 100% mango roll snack for children. The company sales have increased from over 500,000 packs of snacks in 2016 to over 700,000 in 2017.

Williams was inspired to set up her company because she believes job creation is the most effective tool to develop Nigeria, and aims to provide over 1,000 jobs within the next decade. “Job creation was my number one criterion when deciding which industry I wanted to enter, so I really wanted to build a business in an industry that had great potential for this. I picked agriculture and agribusiness,” she says. Through ReelFruit, Williams also hopes to promote more export-based business in Nigeria, “I want to be an example. We don’t have many companies exporting finished products out of Nigeria, so I want to show that it can be done. We now list our products on Amazon.com, which demonstrates that a new business model can be forged for Nigeria.”

Williams currently manages a team of 42 employees at the ReelFruit headquarters in Lagos, and for her mango products she works with a team of 45 women, who grow high quality, export-grade mangoes in Kaduna, northeast Nigeria. By working with the company, the women farmers have increased their annual incomes by €223. The women were also provided with seed capital by the company to grow shorter-term crops that could increase their incomes. ReelFruit sources its other primary and finished raw materials from a complex regional and international supply chain network that includes Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Ghana.

Apart from being named in the Forbes Africa 2016 list of 30 under 30 African Entrepreneurs, Williams was placed first out of 700 applicants for the Women in Business Challenge organised by BiD Network in the Netherlands in 2013, and won €5,000 to expand her business. Three months later, she won the Creative Focus Africa’s SME competition for businesses in Lagos. ReelFruit was also selected as one of the 10 finalists out of over 700 applicants for the first Islamic Development Bank business plan competition in December 2014.

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