With a rich food heritage, developing economy, growing bank of F&B innovators, and impressive population growth, Nigeria is one to watch as our world strives to transform the food system.
Though ripe with potential, the African country’s market for plant-based foods has only started to take off recently, with first-mover VeggieVictory securing the spot as Nigeria’s earliest plant-based restaurant and brand.
In its latest New Food Hub interview, NGO ProVeg International caught up with the Founder of VeggieVictory, Hakeem Jimo (also the new director of ProVeg Nigeria), to learn more about the African country’s food industry.
An entrepreneur of many talents, Hakeem shared valuable lessons and insights into unlocking Nigeria’s plant-based food industry.
Let the food do the talking
“It was a bit crazy,” Hakeem said, when asked about what it was like to open Nigeria’s first-ever plant-based restaurant. “The concept of vegetarianism – especially veganism – was completely strange 10 years ago. We initially said that ‘vegan is like vegetarian’, but vegetarianism had negative connotations. Interestingly, vegan, today, is more positive – it’s considered ‘healthy’.”
So, how did VeggieVictory initially attract diners? And how do they continue to retain consumers today? Hakeem explained that instead of trying to emphasise that their meals are plant-based, they “simply give people the food” and “let it ‘do the talking’”.
This tactic seems to work well with Nigerian consumers, to whom tasty plant-based foods are not a novel concept, only the label of ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’. “There are already a lot of plant-based dishes in Africa. It’s just that nobody really thought about them before as vegan dishes – like beans and plantain,” Hakeem added.
‘Price parity is important’
To unlock Nigeria’s plant-based industry, Hakeem stated the importance of cost: “In Nigeria, price parity, or even cheaper, is important because it’s a low-purchasing market.”
“You can’t come here with premium products,” he added, “because there is this ‘catching-up’ mentality – ‘I want to eat meat because most people don’t eat a lot of meat’. It’s still seen as an aspirational thing, just like, ‘I can afford a car now, I’m not only riding a bicycle,’ it’s the same outlook.”
Certainly, a different approach to the one taken in the Western world will be needed to build up the plant-based industry in Nigeria. One that is, not only suitable for the market, but actually considers Nigerian consumers’ preferences, outlooks, and ideals.