JAVA Foods Limited, a leading Zambian food processor, has penetrated the regional markets after successfully exporting its renowned ‘eeZee noodles’ to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

In an interview, Java Foods founder & chief executive officer, Monica Musonda, disclosed that the company has grown the market for Zambia’s leading noodle brand into two neighbouring markets in the last 10 months, with sales volumes of its famous ‘eeZee noodles’ brand already hitting one million packets.

“Java Foods business strategy & roll out in Zambia was influenced by a number of factors. Firstly, Zambia is self-sufficient in wheat yet locally we use wheat only for bread and confectionary. So there was an opportunity to introduce new products using wheat. Secondly, a young (youthful) urban population and changing consumption patterns meant more people were looking for convenience ready to eat, affordable meals. We realised that these factors were not unique to Zambia (especially on the target market, demographics and consumption patterns) and so it made sense for us to sell into regional markets” Musonda said in an interview in Lusaka.

“We started off in Zimbabwe in November 2020 and Java Foods signed a Distribution Agreement with Tulips Distribution Limited. The product has done very well and we have seen consumer demand has grown and we have sold almost a million packets into that market. The Zimbabwean consumer is quite progressive, willing to try new products. Noodles have been in that market for some time now but it does seem that they like eeZee Noodles because of its high quality and our great localised taste and flavour.”

She added that consumer feedback in the Malawian market was positive, with sales volumes equally impressive.

“The second market we looked at was Malawi. For us, we did a little bit of research, trying to understand the Malawian market; Zimbabwe’s market is very similar to us in terms of how they distribute products in terms of where people buy products. In Malawi, it took a little bit of time because we needed to understand the landscape; slightly different, it’s a very small country, but very highly populated with people shopping quite differently from what you see in Zambia. Therefore, it took a bit of time to choose our distributor, but we ended up with a bigger, well-known distributor in Malawi, and the product was first exported into Malawi in June, this year, and we are now sending another load through this week,” she said.

“We’ve seen great feedback! Malawi’s feedback was actually immediate with people going on social media to talk about the product, and we were very encouraged by the fact that people were able to recognise that it was a Zambian brand and were happy to buy a Zambian product. This is great! We are just about to  introduce ‘Supa Cereal’ (our fortified instant maize soya porridge) into Zimbabwe. Since the COVID19 pandemic hit, we do find that our consumers are now looking at nutritious foods to enhance immune systems – eat right to keep healthy. So Supa Cereal is a product of choice. But we feel that by the end of the year, you will be able to find both products in those countries as well.”

And Musonda observed that Java’s successful push into regional markets was buoyed by securing strategic local distributors in both Malawi and Zimbabwe.

“Primarily because we cannot create Java’s in every country around us, you have to really work through partnerships with people who already distribute products in their local market. And it’s important to work through partnerships because your local partner understands how people buy products, what influences them to buy products, have relationships with retailers, wholesalers etc so, we felt, primarily, that was the best way to enter in both Zimbabwe and Malawi was to go through a distributor who will get the products onto the shelf;” said Musonda.

“So, it is our strategy, as Java, to work through distribution partners, those who are capable of distributing the product, and put it on shelves in front of the consumer. One very important point which we are very proud of is that Java Foods instant noodle plant is the only instant noodle factory in Southern Africa – outside of South Africa. So, it obviously puts Java Foods in a very advantageous position to other noodle brands, which are imported from Asia or elsewhere because we are here right next door. We offer a high-quality product at very competitive pricing. Also, distribution costs are also much cheaper being in the region and our partners can import our products without paying customs duty.”

Amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic in Zambia and across the region, Java has successfully managed to mitigate the devastating effects of the virus by implementing business strategies to adhere to health regulations and guarantee staff and consumer safety.

The company has allowed flexibility in working shifts for staff members who do not need to be present at their state-of-the-art plant in the light industrial area, while also employing digital marketing through growth agency, Manic Creatives, to help maintain visibility on social media and drive-up sales volumes.