Editor's Review

While importing fresh produce, the company made headlines over its sweet potato imports, which were once served to Prince Charles, who ended up falling in love with them.

Perez Ochieng is a Kenyan living in the United Kingdom. She is the CEO and co-founder of SACOMA Business Innovation, which focuses on health and intelligent nutrition.

Speaking exclusively to Nairobileo.co.ke in the UK, Perez discussed her business operation, noting that she established SACOMA in collaboration with her husband, Sam Ochieng.

The couple has been in the food business since 1998. Initially, the company focused on importing and exporting fresh produce. 

While importing fresh produce, the company made headlines over its sweet potato imports, which were once served to Prince Charles, who ended up falling in love with them.

Perez Ochieng, the CEO and co-founder of SACOMA Business Innovation. [Photo: Nairobi Leo]

However, the company stopped importing and exporting fresh produce due to challenges such as logistics in Kenya and a lack of innovation and support from academic institutions.

They later ventured into health and intelligent nutrition, developing new food products for health and well-being.

"We look at food products and see how this resonates with the global food trends. The trends could be health and well-being, healthy eating ...As a company, our innovation is focusing on making sure that our products are in trend with global issues," Perez told this journalist. 

Some of the products produced by SACOMA. [Photo: Nairobi Leo]

Perez opened up on some of the products, noting that one of their latest product is a baby food that contains no palm oil, sugar, or salt.

"This is the only UK product made that has no palm oil on it. The big idea about this is that when this works well for us in the UK and Europe, the idea is to now use Kenyan ingredients to develop some of the products that have already run within control management control practices," she divulged.

According to her, the food industry has moved from how many people want to buy fresh produce like avocados and bananas to how the ingredients from the fresh produce can be used in large manufacturing.

She gave an example of millet, noting that some of its ingredients can be used to create baby food, which can then be sold all over the world.

Some of the products produced by SACOMA. [Photo: Nairobi Leo]

She further notes that as a company, they endeavour to produce natural food products that have functionality not found in highly processed foods; this, she says, is done by having fewer preservatives, sugar, fats, and salts, which cause lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.

Asked whether she had engaged with the Kenyan government on how they can partner to maximise the food market in the UK, Perez noted that she presented her ideas at a 2018 event attended by President William Ruto, who was the deputy president, but her ideas have not been implemented.

She singled out her proposal on how indigenous Kenyan food products can be used to create innovative products.

She gave an example of the flower industry, where she notes that as opposed to exporting fresh flowers to the UK, the country could explore exporting edible flowers, which have a huge demand, better pricing, and are easy to transport since they are light.

Some of the products produced by SACOMA. [Photo: Nairobi Leo]

"We can open up a new market for edible flowers which is more lucrative because flowers are sugar replacers, you can make cakes without sugar when using flowers, they are medicinal as well," she noted.

Regarding her engagement with Kenyan farmers, Perez said her company has been involved in empowering farmers since 2006.

She divulged that they teamed up with Cooperative University to train farmers on the cooperative management principle in order to meet the demand and quality requirements of exporting products to foreign markets such as Europe, but she notes that they faced the challenge of division, especially on political lines.

Some of the products produced by SACOMA. [Photo: Nairobi Leo]

On what Kenya can do better to maximise the global food industry and trends, Perez noted that knowledge transfer is critical and encouraged the government and other relevant authorities to consider working with Kenyans in the diaspora who've gained knowledge and experience in the food innovation industry.

She argues that Kenyans in the diaspora are not just about remittance but also have the knowledge they can share with relevant authorities and transform relevant industries.

In terms of recognition, SACOMA has won several awards for its innovation in the food industry. In 2017, the company won the IFE Food Innovation Award for the Sacoma-Kaney sweet potato initiative.

Some of the awards won by Perez and SACOMA. [Photo: Nairobi Leo]

In 2018, the Commonwealth Champion selected SACOMA to promote the UK products' entry into the Commonwealth markets.

As an individual, Perez has won several awards. For instance, she has a lifetime award as an innovator and inventor. She was also named a global woman Innovator and Inventor at the London Business Awards for Business Woman of the Year.

‚ÄčTo ensure she spreads the knowledge, her company runs a food artisan academy, where it trains on, among other things, using new ingredients to solve health issues and their impacts on quality of life.