Calling the company NOMU was his idea, says co-owner Paul Raphaely. “Tracy was a vegetarian when she started the business. I reasoned her dream delicatessen was never going to have a massive red meat section and in one of my ‘funny moments’ suggested she called the company NOMU. My reasoning was that NOMU equalled ‘no moo’, which was equal to no cow or meat. “Tracy has since returned to eating meat, though. She blames the lapse on vegetarian sausages. The flavour was too close to the real thing and eventually she cracked. A bag of biltong might also have been involved.” which was rattling to pieces, and went out to trade, with products in boxes and baskets, and sold them, plain and simple. One store at a time.
South Africa itself was our first big break – we absolutely profited from a period in our recent history when hundreds of thousands of foreigners were flocking to SA to enjoy our new democracy, our new rainbow nation, our Madiba Magic. It only took a handful of these visitors to discover NOMU in a few places, take them home and decide to abandon their careers to become food importers. Suddenly we had an export market. Since then, I think we have been very lucky in a number of ways, but if it weren’t for that very particular period in South Africa, I doubt NOMU would have found traction quite so quickly.
What have been the biggest challenges and how has the company overcome these?
Distribution, staffing, cash flow, suppliers… None of these are unique to NOMU and all apply to everyone. They are all major challenges and the only way to survive any of them is to maintain a steady sense of humour and to try not to answer emails when you are angry.
What are your plans for the next three years?
That would be telling. You will have to just wait and see. It’s going to be delicious.