Parmalat backs townships’ kota sellers

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This is a R10bn market sector employing up to 70000 people – these are statistics one expects of a rapidly growing segment of the formal economy.

But perhaps surprisingly, they relate to the humble township street food staple, the kota and hold significant potential for producers of the many ingredients used in these quintessentially South African meals.

Dairy giant Parmalat has not only devised an innovative way to tap into this market, but to nurture unparalleled brand loyalty among kota sellers too.

Similar to a bunny chow, the kota comprises a hollowed-out quarter-loaf of bread filled with various ingredients, including hot chips, polony, atchaar, Russian sausages, egg and cheese.

It was the cheese that presented the window of opportunity for the company, and that resulted in it unexpectedly supplying a premium product – individually wrapped and branded single cheese slices – to informal fast food and retail outlets in townships across the country.

That move now sees the company leading the kota market as the preferred single cheese slice provider – no mean feat considering it is estimated that 200 million cheese slices are consumed in the country every year, equating to 15 cheese slices sold per second every day, in a market (cheese slices) valued at R1bn a year.

This market position has yielded significant returns for the company. However, it wasn’t this exponential growth that captured the attention of the dairy market leader, but rather the opportunity to support these informal businesses in such a way that their businesses would flourish as a result.

“It was this thinking that gave rise to the Parmalat phuma phambili programme in 2015. We consider small businesses to be the economic heartbeat of South Africa and believe they need all the help they can get to not just survive, but thrive,” Parmalat CEO Paul Verhaak said.

“We soon realised that we could actually add value to their businesses by helping them become more sustainable and creators of much-needed local employment.”

The programme aims to support small businesses in the informal market, work with emerging fast food and retail businesses as a business enabler and give these township start-ups a much-needed competitive advantage.

The programme was conceptualised by GG Alcock, chief executive of Minanawe Marketing, whose strong consumer insights and in-depth understanding of townships enabled him to recognise the potential of kotas in this invisible matrix at the heart of South Africa’s informal economies.

To participate, kota-producing outlets must register their businesses in the programme, buy and use Parmalat cheese slices in their kotas and then monitor and track their sales as a result of using the cheese slices in their meals.

The incentive for businesses to use these slices is the opportunity to gain access to invaluable outlet support from the company to help them grow their businesses.

This is in the form of access to improved equipment and branding, enhanced marketing collateral and more efficient production to help entrepreneurs achieve better margins. Programme participants also receive items like TVs, fridges and Chromadek signage boards to help give their businesses a more competitive edge.

“This isn’t a handout. It’s our salute to these entrepreneurs’ forward-thinking attitudes and our commitment to supporting them to get ahead and thrive both in business and in life,” Verhaak said. Each year, the top-performing businesses are recognised and rewarded for their efforts with access to further business support.

The 2016 top performers were announced at an event in Johannesburg yesterday and included Betty Ndawonde of Zakhele Fast Food in Dobsonville, Gauteng; Busi Dladla of Zikhiphani Fast Food in Senaoane, Gauteng; Pule Babie of Pule’s Fast Food in Naledi, Gauteng; Doris Matatanya of PKP Kitchen in Limpopo and Maryjane Ngwenya of Kota Land Fast Food in Mpumalanga.

The programme is available in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and will this year be rolled out to KwaZulu-Natal and plans are also under way to incorporate the Eastern Cape later on in the year.

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