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

CityPress - - Business -

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

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