Chika’s is a West African-inspired food business. We’re trying to carve out a space which isn’t very well covered now, which is in much more interesting snacks, with inspiration and ingredients being from Africa. The founder, Chika, is from Nigeria originally. Africa is under-represented in the UK market. African foods weren’t found in supermarkets in the snack space, the niche was about providing the market with something different – different flavours, different ingredients and a different style. To characterise Chika’s in a few words… it’s very much focused on premium, high-quality ingredients and traditional techniques. We believe it’s genuinely innovative for the UK market.
West African food is about strong flavours. Quite a lot of snacks out there are quite bland; our primary driver is very much about taste. Yes, the products are healthy, and often the ingredients are those that aren’t used in the UK market, but they have to have strong, interesting flavours.
As of last year, we went into Waitrose, Ocado, Selfridges, and Whole Foods.
One of the agendas we want to develop, along with generating a lot of publicity about Africa, is that it’s important for us through the products to promote African food and culture and style, in a way that’s very positive and glamorous. Chika represents a strong, stylish African female. Chika grew up in West Africa, she’s someone who’s in touch with her heritage and her culture.
We supply Waitrose and five-star hotels. As of last year, we went into Waitrose, Ocado, Selfridges, and Whole Foods. Waitrose tend to list new products in 40, 50, 60 stores, but we got listed on day one in 270. That’s because no one really occupies the space that we’re in and no one is really doing exactly the same thing.
We have some quite big changes to announce. We’ve just formed our advisory board: Bill Ronald, who used to be the MD for Mars in the UK, now current non-executive chairman of Fever Tree, we’re excited to have him on board as a chairman. We also have the UK publisher of GQ, Vanessa Kingori; she’ll be one of our directors. It works with both the media element and the fact that we see ourselves as a stylish brand – from the packaging and design and everything else. It’s important to us, so that ties in very nicely. Then there’s Rob Hain, currently chairman of City Financial, an asset management firm. He also acts as an advisor to a number of fast-growing businesses. He’s been a mentor to Chika’s pretty much from the start.
Anyone who’s run successful businesses usually has tips or guidance or ideas about when things went well for them.
In terms of business strategy, it’s about working closely with our existing retail outlets. Without pre-empting, we have two other targeted national listings we’re pursuing. It has to be retailers who are consistent with a premium snack brand. We have to maintain integrity. Waitrose and Ocado were both natural partners.
I attended the Business Insight Dinner with Sally, our salesperson, because she’s still young and is starting out. For both of us, we went because it looked like there were good speakers, and we’re always interested in learning new ways to do things. Anyone who’s run successful businesses usually has tips or guidance or ideas about when things went well for them, and you can think about how to apply that to your own business.
The quality of speakers sets this apart from some other events that I’ve attended.
There was half an hour of networking drinks, then the dinner; two of the speakers were sitting on our table; we both got a good chance to network. After the speakers finished, there were networking drinks.
It was good. The quality of speakers sets this apart from some other events that I’ve attended. I’m always looking to learn but often you attend something and you’re just not picking up that many incredible things that you can apply to your own business. I think that’s what set this dinner apart.
Find out more about Chika's
The next Business Insight Dinner will take place at Kennington Park on March 2. The theme is 'What's Next for Business & Social Media & Internet of Things (IoT)'. Find out more here.