FROM PET IDEA TO MARKET SUCCESS
In October last year, young entrepreneur Nhlanhla Dlamini was setting up his factory. Since then, he’s employed 30 people and next month his first shipment of pet treats will be exported to the US. He discussed his growing manufacturing business with
Right in the heart of the Maneli Pets’ factory in Sebenza, an industrial hub east of Johannesburg, is a high-tech piece of equipment that looks like a 1960s time machine.
The machine is a specialised vacuum freeze dryer. While it won’t transport you back in time, it is technology that dates back to early space travel when astronauts needed food that could stay fresh for a year.
Imported from China, the gigantic machine with its own overhead rails is the centre piece of the production process at Maneli Pets, a black-owned manufacturer and exporter of high-end pet treats to the US, the EU and Japan.
Maneli Pets is the brainchild of Nhanhla Dlamini, a Sowetoborn entrepreneur who studied in the US. In 2015, the 32-yearold left his plush corporate job at global consulting firm McKinsey to explore the feasibility of starting a full-on food manufacturing operation for the export market.
Last October, City Press profiled Dlamini as he was setting up his factory. Next month, the first order of his premium pet food product branded Roam will be shipped to a US client that has already placed tons of orders.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) funded the vacuum freeze dryer and other equipment at the factory. It also helped in the conversion of the Maneli Pets factory into an export-ready facility that now employs 30 people. In the next two years, the factory will triple its employment force to around 100.
Maneli Pets buys raw ostrich, crocodile and other game cuts from abattoirs in South Africa, which arrive at the factory weekly, frozen and weighing up to 4 tons.
These are then defrosted, cleaned, cut and have a selection of ingredients mixed into them. They are then cooked using various technologies and placed into branded packages before the finished product is shipped to the US, the EU and Japan.
Dlamini says the products appeal to pet owners who are not price-sensitive but are seeking non-harmful, nutritious snacks for their pets. The appeal is that the meat these snacks are made from is from animals that were raised in their natural habitat.
“There is a massive movement towards cleaner and leaner proteins that don’t come from commercial feedlots like beef