Innovation and quality give food company the edge
By commercialising seasonings, spices and baking ingredients and bringing a new sophistication to the hot chocolate category, Tracy Foulkes and Paul Raphaely have built a food and lifestyle brand that exports to over 30 countries.
the NOMU food and lifestyle brand was created 16 years ago, when Tracy Foulkes became frustrated with the stress and seasonality of the catering industry in Cape Town. Foulkes had always had a passion for flavour and with the encouragement of her partner, Paul Raphaely, whom she married in 2006, she decided to commercialise some of her homemade seasoning solutions. NOMU, which started in Tracy’s small kitchen in Oranjezicht, has since developed into a leading food innovator designed to inspire creativity in the kitchen – not only in South Africa but across the globe. Paul, the director and co-founder of NOMU, talked to finweek about the development of the brand.
Why did you decide to start a company?
Tracy was looking for something more reliable and stable than what she was getting from the catering business. At first, she wanted to open an upmarket “destination” food emporium, which may still happen one day, but instead decided first to trial some of her homemade seasoning solutions at a handful of speciality outlets in Cape Town. It took almost three months before we unexpectedly received our first export order, which resulted in the idea of a food emporium being placed on hold in favour of a food innovation manufacturing business.
How do you fit into the business?
Tracy and I are equal partners in NOMU. She is largely responsible for new product development, creative direction and visual execution, supported by an amazing team. I try to get to the rest, ranging from sales, marketing and advertising to brand champion, delivery boy and tea lady. It’s a mixed bag, but it works, most of the time.
Why spices and flavours?
Tracy has always loved flavour, as a concept. She had always kept literally dozens of different homemade seasoning solutions and sauces in her own home or available to her professionally for the catering business, so in a way converting these to commercial product was relatively easy. Spices are a passion too. It’s so much easier to make a success when pursuing a passion, something you love.
There is a lot of competition in the spice industry. How does NOMU differentiate itself from other products?
NOMU’s role has always been to innovate in food concepts. We were the first to introduce the concept of a spice “rub” to South Africa. I suppose we managed to stand out from everything else in our relative “newness”. We also paid a lot of close attention to strong and eye-catching packaging, which we have aimed to maintain ever since.
Our central philosophy, though, has always been to ensure that the actual contents are always highest quality and consistently amazing, and live up to the promise of the packaging. This is what we would want for ourselves in any item
NOMU was the first company to introduce spice rubs to the South African market.