The Right Ingredients for Success
Business has remained steady for Kenblest over the past year and the increased capacities from replacing its ovens and machinery are sure to encourage future growth in the Kenyan market
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Callum Philp
With an extensive family-orientated company history, Kenblest has seen rapid expansion in recent years thanks to its investments in high quality machinery that allows for increased capacities, timely product delivery and generating added value through the use of local suppliers.
With roots tracing back to 1937, the incorporation of ‘Shah Kanji Ladha and Company’ in Thika, Kenya, by Kanji Ladha Shah marked the beginning of the company footprint in the country. The shop located in the centre of Thika town, traded in textiles and general goods. Mayur Mohanlal Shah joined in 1981, having graduated as a pharmacist from John Moore University and completed a Diploma in Baking in the United Kingdom.
Given the company’s initial experience of baking and the Kenyan market, the directors identified a large gap in the industry for good quality bread; and so plans were drawn up to expand into the bakery industry, resulting in the incorporation of Kenblest Limited. In August 1982, the Kenblest bakery was commissioned with the prime objective to manufacture and deliver good quality and affordable bread to Kenyan consumers.
Since this time, the company has focused heavily on combining international business practices into the inner workings of Kenblest bakery. Through dedication and hard work, coupled with strong business acumen, Kenblest flourished and within four years the bakery expanded its capacity from 80,000 to 230,000 loaves a day. Expansion in 2006 increased daily production capacity to 330,000 loaves a day, making Kenblest the single largest bread producer under one roof in Kenya.
Jinit Shah, CEO of Kenblest, is extremely proud of the company’s markedly improved growth year-on-year: “We have always been strong contenders in the market here, but now we find ourselves in an even better position. We are in the process of constructing two new 150-tonne wheat and maize mills in Thika, which will raise our milling capacity considerably. Going forward, we strive to continue this level of growth, as long as it is financially prudent to do so.”
Food industry trends
Kenya’s food industry is one of the largest in terms of revenue, with the bakery industry considered the largest division. There has been a growing trend among the working population who commute into the cities each day to choose bread as the main staple for their lunch as Shah explains: “Eating habits have changed dramatically over the past few years in Kenya. An increasing number of people are turning to bread and bread-related products for their lunchtime meal. It is easy to purchase and is considered a fast food by many, while remaining filling and cheap. It has been a big source of our rise in sales revenue,” he says.
In order to stay ahead of the industry curve, Kenblest has invested in much newer machinery which can handle greater capacities. “Some of our competitors are using machinery that is 30 or 40 years old and that breaks down on a regular basis. Our choice to invest in newer machinery last year and a further investment in brand new ovens in 2015 has been a serious enabler for the business.
“Additionally, there is now a much bigger emphasis on making the manufacturing process as energy efficient as possible. With our new machines, we can now meet green targets,” highlights Shah.
Kenblest has built up an impressive workforce and supply chain management system including a logistics arm that distributes product all over the country. In 2014, the company purchased 100 new trucks from Tata Africa Holdings ranging from one tonne haulers to seven tonne movers. In order to ensure the company keeps up with supply and demand, the trucks are replaced every four years and receive regular maintenance. “The trucks will keep our products rolling out to Kenya’s cities so that we never fall behind on supply,” comments Shah.
Shah is keen to emphasise that Kenblest is a company which prides itself on hiring local talent. With a workforce of more than 700 and promising relationships with local vendors and companies, the company is very much focused on contributing to Kenya’s people and economy where possible. “We have worked closely with local communities and companies to ensure that the relationships we have built up over the years remain as strong today as they were 30 years ago. Our suppliers and partners are always local. It is crucial for us to manage and nurture our business relationships so that in times both good and bad, they will stick with us and we will stay with them,” he says.
With a strong family culture that filters through every facet of the business, Shah is confident that the new machinery and ovens will cement Kenblest’s position in Kenya as a leading supplier of high quality, affordably-priced bread that has the customer in mind. Loyal and local partner relationships combined with greater output capacities are sure to be the winning ingredients that will drive the business forward this year.