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Sossi launch takes affordable protein to the masses

Your editor was recently invited to a most interesting product launch by a giant of a food group that ‘nobody has heard about’. Read on!

The company in question is Promasidor, a privately-held powerhouse with multiple factories in Africa, and with a big and vibrant product presence in some 30 African (out of 54) countries.

It directly employs some 4 500 people across Africa and financially empowers some 45 000 people who trade its products in markets that total almost a billion people.

Founded in 1979, Promasidor has grown into a leading provider of innovative foodstuffs that are affordable, convenient, quality ranges that include powdered dairy products, culinary food enhancers, fortified cereals and several types of beverages.

Its business and brands serve and flourish in the informal sector through a combination of savvy understanding of its consumers, effective marketing in this arena (to wit, another planet for many FMCG brands and marketers) and providing convenience foodstuffs that are shelf-stable, durable, value-for-money, nutritious and ta-ra! tasty.

This month’s launch had its genesis in recognising the need for affordable, quality protein in economic times that are putting it out of reach of the mass markets of Africa.

Shaun Chaplin (Promasidor MD), Matthew Pearce (MC of the launch event), Carol Tshabalala (Brand Ambassador) for Sossi, Thabang Diole (Brand Manager).

Introducing Sossi

Introducing Sossi, a ready-to-eat, canned soya-chunks meal in three tasty variants. These are Beef Flavour in a Rich Gravy, in a Hot Chilli Sauce and in a Tomato Sauce.

The price point is an affordable RSP of R22.00 for a 400g pull-ring can.

Promasidor MD, Shaun Chaplin, explained that the company has long had the soy technology, and the Sossi brand is already well established and popular in flavoured and dehydrated chunks format in its East African markets. Sossi is made at Promasidor’s Kenyan factory.

“This struck us as an obvious route to some innovation that was begging to happen,” he said. “We’re excited and confident that we have developed a great product ideal for the times, namely to provide affordable, quality, tasty, convenient protein in an inflationary environment where the likes of fresh or canned fish or meat are no longer affordable for millions of African people.”

Promasidor has taken a big capex leap into a new canning operation at a new Boksburg factory; starting moderately in size but with ample room to expand as the expected volumes grow.

Chaplin was candid about the big learning curve they’re going through and the challenges of launching and marketing a wholly new concept.

“We have a huge project ahead of us, but we know our markets, we know how to reach them, we believe in our new offering and we trust we’ll enjoy the ongoing support of our wholesale and retail partners,” he commented.

Promasidor worked closely with the local branch of French flavour company, Mane, in developing the flavour profiles – all of which eat exceptionally well. The texture, likewise. It looks like goulash/beef strips, notably emulating the real thing.

Mane’s local marketing executive, Janet Deel-Smith, took launch delegates through its research work for the project and outlined the following consumer needs that Sossi fills:

  • Excellent taste, texture, colour and aroma.
  • It’s a healthy eat – “Nutritious food is understood in every income level,” she reminded. Sossi is high quality plant protein that will help people feel fuller for longer.
  • It’s versatile – it can be eaten on its own, or with any number of accompaniments, and “dressed up” in multiple ways. “Who doesn’t appreciate variety at mealtime?” she asked.
  • It’s super convenient, requiring no refrigeration, and can be easily heated, or eaten straight out of the can. It doesn’t even need a can opener.
  • Value for money; well-priced.

“We’re very proud to have worked on this project from the outset – creating something that can improve the lives of South Africans every day,” Deel-Smith concluded.

Carol Tshabalala

Famous brand ambassador

To abet its marketing of Sossi, Promasidor has brought Carol Tshabalala on board as brand ambassador. This well-known soccer star, now award-winning sportscaster and often dubbed SA’s “First Lady of Sport”, relayed how excited and proud she is to be part of the Sossi team.

“Affordable, healthy food is something we all need,” she commented. “It comes to market with perfect timing and will bring dignity to many. A product like this could make a huge difference for young sports people.”

Another guest speaker at the launch was the fascinating marketer, speaker, author, entrepreneur, GG Alcock, a white man who grew up as a Zulu boy in rural KZN, and who is SA’s leading expert in “Kasinomics”, with an unparalled understanding the “kasi” or township economy.

He lauded the Sossi concept, saying that it was wonderful for a brand to add value to peoples’ lives, one that will allow many people to do business and bring some smiles to consumers.

“It’s really important to have product like this… that good nutrition and affordability is not a race to the bottom. This is a product that restores dignity and signifies that just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you can’t buy nutritious, quality food and good taste,” he said.

He gave some fascinating insights in the size and scope of the informal sector, wryly observing how eagerly this domain of small operators is now being chased by the big retailers.

In fact, latest stats from NielsenIQ confirm why. They point to a return to buoyancy within the Traditional Trade sector ie unbranded stores (spazas, taverns, independent grocers and forecourts) with total sales for the latest month growing by 13% (versus the same month in 2021), and total annual retail sales of R119-billion (last 12 months) which represents 21% annual growth.

Promasidor also shared some of its marketing initiatives that include interactive road shows and product theatres; brand development via above-the-line campaigns; extensive below-the-line activity such as sampling, point-of-sale and coupons; and reps who buy their own product and then sell it forward to every small spaza or store, ensuring widespread availability.

Your editor went home – much enlightened and super impressed, and with a terrific food story to share!

Watch this fascinating corporate video to learn more about this food giant!


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