With over 50 years experience, Kapa Oil delivers quality and cost effective products in the oil, detergent and soap manufacturing sectors
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project manager Nick Norris
Started by Shah's grandfather and his two brothers, Kapa Oil prides itself on being a sustainable family-owned business, which has grown to a size of around 2500 employees. Ani Shah, Head of New Projects and the third generation in the family to enter the company, spoke to Africa Outlook about the company origins and retaining their position in the market.
The name 'Kapa' is an acronym derived from the title 'Karania Packers' which was established in the late 1960's as a salt packaging and baking powder manufacturing company. Karania Packers grew steadily and within a short time, they ventured into producing cooking fats and edible oils. As a result, it became known as Kapa Oil Refineries Ltd. While treading in new territories, Kapa showed its commitment to innovation by being the first manufacturing company to introduce the packing of cooking fats in reusable plastic containers, a norm that all cooking fat manufacturers now follow.
As the industry quickly expanded, Kapa steadily acquired more market share. In succession to the cooking fat and edible oils, Kapa started manufacturing a premium detergent powder called Toss, which took the detergent powder market by storm. Toss has been and still is the market leader in the detergent powder category, with advertisements regularly featured on TV. With continual research and development, Kapa saw prospective opportunities in the FMCG industry and proceeded to manufacture different varieties of laundry soap bars followed by margarine, glycerine and luxury toilet soaps.
In 2003, Kapa cemented its commitment to quality by being certified the prestigious ISO 9001:2000 award for its Quality Management Systems in the manufacturing of cooking fats, edible oils, margarine, baking powder, laundry soaps and glycerine.
Kapa is proud to be the first company in the manufacturing sector to be HACCP UK certified for its edible oil processes. Kapa takes pride in manufacturing qualitative and affordable end products for its customers. Due to this factor, Kapa has always and keeps enjoying unmatched brand loyalty from satisfied customers. The company products are now trusted household names, not only in Kenya but throughout East, Central, West and Southern Africa as they export a diverse range of products to over 14 African countries serving the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Markets (COMESA) and South Africa Development Community (SADC) markets.
Being a consumer health driven company, Kapa believes in the manufacture of safe and healthy edible products. Unlike other cooking fats, oils and margarines in the market, Kapa products are non-hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is a harmful process which alters the composition of raw materials to resemble those of plastic with the addition of trans-fatty acids as a by-product of this process. Kapa Oil cooking fats and cooking oils are free of hydrogenation thus making them heart friendly, cholesterol free and beneficial to the health and well-being of all consumers.
New Ventures and Trends
As Head of New Projects, Ani Shah revealed that a new product, that will be coming to market in April this year. "My job has been to organise and professionalise the company in a nutshell, and look at new technology-related projects. This new project has been in the pipeline for a number of years now and we have now secured the approval from the board," Shah explains.
The company have seen success across the spectrum with all of their products, most notably in the sale of their oils. "The oil industry has become more and more competitive but our top brands are still holding strong," remarks Shah. However, Government spending in the market has, in recent years, been low, which means that the industry as a whole has seen a small decline in sales. Shah does not see this as a problem as company growth has been fed from becoming more efficient and implementing market research strategies.
As regards to recent market trends, Kapa Oil have found that more of their customers have moved from using cooking fat to cooking oil. "With the current trend of healthy eating we are seeing across the continent, more people are aware of their diet and the foods they consume. With this in mind, more people have moved towards using our Olivia oil. This has been good news for us in terms of revenue, however, we have also seen a rise in the number of competitors in our market, looking to make money in this industry," remarks Shah. Kapa Oil have to make sure that bringing in foreign investment can start a sustainable relationship. Shah commented on the number of outside investors who are trying to enter the market and how this relationship is key to successful business: "We have both local and foreign suppliers and, as with any company, business relationships are fundamental. Whether it is your customers or your suppliers, managing these relationships is crucial. We take this very seriously and even in semiretirement, our chair wants to be involved in the company as much as possible, maintaining a key role in this process as a senior member of our team."
A Benchmark Company
Mr Shah proudly stated that Kapa Oil want to continue as a family business: "We want to be the best we can be. This also means integrating the new generation of the family into the business, and will be key to taking the business to the next level. Our aim is to eventually secure an Africa-wide position and secure operations in new countries," he added: "If you ever ask what makes us different, we make sure that our quality speaks for itself; we deliver the most quality and cost effective products in the market as compared to our competitors. As an example of this best practice, every element of our detergent powders and oils - including refining - are done to the highest quality we can achieve."
With a comprehensive health and safety scheme in place, it is rest assured that staff will receive the right treatment services as Shah cites: "Over the years we have had a few accidents as tends to happen in the manufacturing sector. We look after our people. If there is an accident, our health and safety policy ensures we have the relevant insurances, and this is crucial to us."
With a third generation in the family to carry on the legacy, Kapa Oil will continue to make sure that their products are of the best quality in their markets of operation. As Shah concludes: "We say to customers, we will never reduce prices to compromise quality. We truly believe that our quality and branding speaks for itself."