Kenyan busi­ness­man whets ap­petites with nyama choma in US

Kan­garua, a res­i­dent of New Jersey, has be­come a favourite with buy­ers in a ma­jor­ity of the states

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SUNDAY REVIEW - BY ELIAS MAKORI

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For Eu­ty­chus Macharia Kan­garua, a Kenyan-born res­i­dent of New Jersey, last week’s Thanks­giv­ing was one of the busiest in years.

His mo­bile phones rang mul­ti­ple times as cus­tomers sought to con­firm if their nyama choma or­ders placed on­line were ready.

This year, on­line spend­ing on Thanks­giv­ing Day broke new ground in the US with re­ports in­di­cat­ing that about $3.7 bil­lion (Sh370 bil­lion) was spent, the high­est year-af­ter-year sales in­crease since 2014.

The Amer­i­can spend­ing spree domi­noes into “Black Fri­day” last week and went on an up­ward spi­ral through to “Cy­ber Mon­day” with bil­lions of dol­lars spent.

While Thanks­giv­ing Day is a pub­lic hol­i­day in the US, marked ev­ery fourth Thurs­day of Novem­ber to cel­e­brate a good har­vest, Black Fri­day, the day af­ter, ef­fec­tively kicks in the Christ­mas shop­ping sea­son with re­tail­ers tra­di­tion­ally of­fer­ing stag­ger­ing dis­counts.

Cy­ber Mon­day is a more re­cent phe­nom­e­non, mark­ing the Mon­day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing Day when peo­ple are en­cour­aged to make on­line pur­chases. The more rea­son Mr Kan­garua kept his phones charged through­out the week­end.

Born in Nakuru but brought up in Nairobi, Mr Kan­garua, 45, runs a boom­ing nyama choma busi­ness in New Jersey.

Mar­ket trends have forced him to move with the pace and em­brace tech­nol­ogy to break even.

He now makes most of his nyama choma sales on­line, with his New Jersey-based Latha Foods Com­pany ship­ping the ready-made roast beef, sausages, mut­ton, tur­key across the US. “Dur­ing the Thanks­giv­ing week­end, I could barely leave my house as I was deal­ing with de­liv­er­ies,” he said.

“On Thanks­giv­ing Day on Thurs­day (Novem­ber 22), I was on­line through­out be­cause, first, it’s ex­tremely cold out­side, and sec­ond, most peo­ple were check­ing up on their or­ders and I needed to re­spond real time.”

While many Kenyans mi­grat­ing to the US seek white col­lar jobs, Mr Kan­garua’s nyama choma busi­ness has gained him fame and for­tune.

He’s a reg­u­lar at United Na­tions bar­be­cues in New York, less than 45 min­utes from his New Jersey base.

“Be­sides Kenyan mis­sion events, I’m also con­tracted to make choma nyama for Nige­ri­ans, Ghana­ians, Euro­peans and many other com­mu­ni­ties in New York and across Amer­ica, along with cor­po­rate busi­nesses and church events,” he said.

Mr Kan­garua moved to Amer­ica in 2000, af­ter hav­ing started a small busi­ness at Nairobi’s Ngara.

Get­ting into the nyama choma busi­ness abroad hasn’t been easy, es­pe­cially with the strict reg­u­la­tions set by the US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) and also by in­di­vid­ual states.

Four years ago, his com­pany fi­nally re­ceived cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and busi­ness has been boom­ing, es­pe­cially with the per­mis­sion to pack­age his prod­ucts with la­bels.

“It was tough get­ting through US cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” he said.

“We started by just do­ing bar­be­cues for peo­ple, but we have not grown into spe­cial­is­ing in large sup­plies,” he told

The com­pany now has all in­dus­trial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from dif­fer­ent state codes, “and we are now look­ing to be like In­dian, Arab, Jews and Asian busi­nesses that have prod­ucts in all su­per­mar­kets and shops across Amer­ica”.

Mr Kan­garua usu­ally buys meat in bulk, mar­i­nates it and roasts it in his back­yard in Som­er­set, where he lives with his wife, Jane, and four chil­dren Es­ther (17), Peter (12), Em­manuel (seven) and Heav­enly Joy (three).

He then pack­ages it ac­cord­ing to or­ders re­ceived from across the coun­try.

“I pack­age the meat af­ter the bar­be­cue and freeze it ac­cord­ing to FDA guide­lines, ready for ship­ping,” he said.

The clients would then de­frost the nyama choma which would re­tain the orig­i­nal flavour once it’s out of the oven or mi­crowave.

Latha’s menu also in­cludes samosas, pre-cooked lamb, goat, beef and pork along with chicken, fish and stews which are de­liv­ered on the United Par­cel Ser­vice net­work.

The prices are com­pet­i­tive too, with a pack of 12 veg­etable samosas, for in­stance, cost­ing $34.30 (Sh3,430), and an eight-pack beef sausage de­liv­ery go­ing for $67.45.

Mar­i­nated goat thighs, ribs or shoul­ders sell for $59.80 each, with all these prizes in­clud­ing ship­ping and taxes.

Or­ders are made through Mr Kan­garua’s com­pany web­site, www. lath­, and also via the com­pany’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts.

“I have clients across most of the States with the ex­cep­tion of just nine — Seat­tle, Texas, Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Min­nesota, In­di­ana, Alabama, Florida and Ge­or­gia. We also make the best sausages with­out fat or sodium,” he said, adding that the sausages taste like those in Kenya.

It takes less than a day to dis­patch or­ders to nearby states like New York, Mary­land, Penn­syl­va­nia and Mas­sachusetts, with the far­thest de­liv­er­ies tak­ing up to five or six days to states like Oregon, Wash­ing­ton and Utah.

And still ar­riv­ing fresh.

“It’s de­li­cious,” Dr Joseph Ki­mani, a Kenyan psy­chi­a­trist based in South Plain­field, New Jersey, chipped in as he ate Mr Kan­garua’s nyama choma. “We eat it the same way we eat nyama choma back home in Kenya and we en­joy it with the tra­di­tional ugali.”

Mr Moses Kanja, chief ex­ec­u­tive and founder of New Jersey-based com­puter pro­gram­ming com­pany, Khan­soft, also a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, con­curred, say­ing it gave him a taste of Kenya.

Mr Kan­garua is also ven­tur­ing into the pro­duc­tion of whole grain por­ridge flour man­u­fac­tured mainly out of sweet pota­toes and blended with mil­let and maize.

Mr Eu­ty­chus Kan­garua pre­pares nyama coma for sale at his premises in New Jersey, US.

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