Sometime in 2011, Gabriel Kwendo, Emmanuel Ogise and Joseph Bosire met at Egerton University as first-year students.
They had all joined the institution to pursue animal science related courses. Today, they run a value addition start-up through which they make various dairy products.
Kwendo and Ogise, both 31, first studied Diploma in Dairy Technology, and later advanced to Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Bachelor of Science in Animal Science respectively, while Bosire, 32, is a dairy technology and management graduate.
“We were good friends before we thought of getting into milk business in 2018. We raised Sh120,000 capital, each one of us contributing equally, to venture into milk business,” says Kwendo.
The trio later received Sh500,000 funding from various incubation programmes at the university.
They used the money to purchase a fridge, milk cans, pasteuriser and leased a shop for operations. They called the business located in Njoro, Nakuru County, Comrade Dairy and Food Enterprises.
“We began by selling pasteurised milk to the community. It has been an interesting journey; when we started, we were carrying milk on our backs from the farmers to the facility,” Bosire states, noting they source the produce from farmers in Belbur, Njoro at Sh38 per litre.
According to Ogise, their main target when they started was Egerton University students, supplying them with fresh milk.
Four years down the line, their business has grown from supplying fresh milk only to making sweet yoghurt.
Their business premises comprises a reception, laboratory, processing plant, fermentation, packaging and cold storage areas. It is big enough to accommodate 20,000 litres a day.
Important equipment they have are pasteurisers, fermentation tanks, boiler and for quality checks, alcohol guns, burettes and pipettes.
“We are now making yoghurt and sour milk besides selling the fresh milk, our premier product. We make strawberry and vanilla yoghurt flavours,” Kwendo says.
They sell a 500ml pack of yoghurt to wholesalers at Sh80 and consumers at Sh100. For sour milk, a litre retails at Sh120 and fresh milk at Sh70.
Comrades enterprises products are marketed under the brand name Prestige Dairy. They use both business-to-customer and business-to-business models to sell their products.
The products target mid and low-income earners, while Bosire notes they are developing herbal yoghurt for the high-end market.
“We are seeking funds to help us procure more machines such as a continuous pasteuriser (plate heat exchanger or tubular heat exchanger), a homogeniser, separator, packaging machine, a steam boiler, milk silos and fermentation tanks. They will not only help us improve our production capacity and efficiency, but also the quality of our product,” Kwendo explains.
The business partners cite lack of enough financing to help improve production capacity as one of their major challenges.
To run such a business, one needs licences from the county government, Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) and another for standardisation from Kenya Bureau of Standards. The KDB inspects the premises for processing suitability, while county public health officers for health standards. Kebs analyses the products for quality standards. All the licenses cost them about Sh30, 000.
Currently, they are working with 60 dairy farmers across Njoro, from who they collect 180 – 300 litres of milk per day. The farmers are trained on clean milk production.
On average, about 60 per cent of the milk is processed into yoghurt and sour milk.
They collect the milk from the farms using a motorbike they own. The milk is first tested during collection by the grader and upon arrival at their shop, it is subjected to organoleptic, acidity, alcohol and peroxidase tests.
“These tests are done in accordance with the measures we have developed and in line with the principles set by Kebs for milk and by-products,” Kwendo states.
To make yoghurt, the milk is first pre-heated, then sweetener (sugar), stabiliser (pectin), and thickener (starch) are added.
The milk is again heated and cooled to 43oC, then inoculated with thermophilic starter cultures and incubated for six to eight hours. For sour milk, the difference comes with the amount of ingredients used. However, it is not sweetened.
The inoculation temperatures are lower at 23oC and the starter culture used is mesophillic. The products certified by Kebs are then packed, labelled and refrigerated before they are distributed to the market.
The trio, who employ 10 youths on contract, hope in five years they would have expanded their production capacity to approximately 10,000 litres per day.
Hellen Kamba, a dairy production specialist, says many opportunities come with value addition, especially for youths.
“Processing of dairy products creates jobs along the value chain ranging from transportation, production to marketing,” she explains.
Kamba, a milk value addition expert trained at Dairy Training Institute, says there are more opportunities in cheese, butter and cream, since the products are made by few.