Elizabeth Jebiwot: How Ugali Crust Influenced A Profitable Venture 

Elizabeth Jebiwott grew up in Kenya loving the crust left behind after cooking Ugali, and for many children, it was a fight to see who got to eat it. However, while studying abroad, Elizabeth realized there was a huge population who used maize for other things aside from Ugali, and the crust was also enjoyed by many who prepared it differently. With this realization, Elizabeth knew she would employ the same technology to convert maize flour into delicious snacks.

Together with her husband, they established Bischoff Development Local Opportunities (BDELO), a company that manufactures a range of healthy snacks for the health-conscious consumer. Their company won the Gold Award Snack of the Year and Best Ingredient Innovation at the 2019 Africa Foodex Awards. Today, their products are stocked in some of the largest retailers, including Chandarana Foodplus, Carrefour, and Shoprite. They also sell online and through their platform with products reaching as far as Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

Elizabeth’s journey began in 1990 when she went to the United States on a student exchange program. She was doing an MBA in Management at Case Western Reserve University, where she interacted with Caribbean and South American students who had a multitude of dishes derived from maize flour. Elizabeth was fascinated by how her beloved maize crust was enjoyed abroad and knew that she would bring the idea back home and change breakfast options for her people.

She met her husband, Daniel Bischoff, and for a decade and a half, the couple saved money. In 2010, they relocated to Kenya and started Bischoff Development Local Opportunities (BDELO) in Kajiado with a capital of Sh15 million. The money was used to purchase equipment to make nacho and tortillas, construct the company, purchase raw materials, and market and distribute their products.

The company processes and packages various snacks and food from maize. They work with local farmers and get all their raw materials locally. They sort, grade, wash and cook maize grains before it is grounded and used for baking, frying, and packaged. Production begins with a traditional Mexican way of nixtamalisation to separate the kernel and husk. It is then turned into dough, which can be a base for various products.

Their products are made from mixing various vegetables, legumes, and superfoods. Their ingredients include sweet potatoes, chia seeds, flaxseeds, beetroot, moringa, Irish potatoes, sukuma wiki, millet, sesame seeds, and arrowroots. Their gluten-free certified products have no monosodium glutamate and are rich in fiber. Their chips come in a variety of forms, from maize and kale tortilla to maize and chia tortilla chips. The company also produces taco shells and soft tortillas/wraps.

BDELO International is registered in Bahrain, providing them with an opportunity to enter the Middle Eastern market. They ship pre-processed tortilla sheets to Bahrain and then process them into a final product. The company hopes to partner with local food companies in the area. They have received inquiries from far and wide but are currently figuring out logistics as shipping products from Kenya to other countries can be expensive.

One of their biggest challenges is unfair competition from imports. Retailers tend to prefer imports, and multinationals can easily pay for shelf space. There is also the fact that international companies can make use of printed labels, whereas BDELO encounters extra costs as they are required to print the packaging. Nonetheless, they remain committed to producing quality products and expanding their markets.