Pap in a pack – Nigerian entrepreneur turns traditional meal into hot commodity

A traditional staple meal made from maize or sorghum and consumed widely across Africa in different forms, Pap is being sold in Nigeria in a labelled, convenient pack with a guarantee that it is hygienically prepared and fit for export. Entrepreneur Ijeoma Ndukwe has big plans to take this simple porridge to Nigeria’s huge Diaspora population with an insatiable taste for home, and while it is not too different from what people have consumed for generations, Ndukwe says her business plan offers a more ‘complete package’.

ABUJA, NIGERIA (REUTERS) – A factory worker checks the tenderness of maize that has been soaked to be ground into one of Nigeria’s most popular breakfasts.

This local ‘Pap’ is known as Akamu or Ogi and is prepared and sold as a sour paste.

At Bubez Foods, Nigerian Pap – a traditional meal consumed since maize was introduced to the continent hundreds of years ago, will be packaged in air tight containers for sale.

Ijeoma Ndukwe, a busy mother of three said she started Bubez Foods to cut out the hustle of soaking and milling the maize at home – a process that can take days to achieve the desired taste and consistency.

“I thought about it, that there are several mothers like me who wanted to give their kids this staple, this traditional meal that we all grew up taking but you know they were busy moms working to support the family and didn’t have exactly the time to process the meal for their children. I figured that I could be a bridge between the meal and the mothers thereby providing convenience and hygiene for this staple meal called pap,” Ndukwe said.

Traditionally, grains are washed and soaked for at least three days before being put through a commercial blending machine.

It is a process that people are growing increasingly concerned about. Some say it is unhygienic due to the machine’s exposure to dust and use of dirty water and materials.

Pap can be made from millet, maize or sorghum and is best enjoyed with a bean cake called Akara.

Kingsley Oheazu says this staple meal is filling and affordable.

“It’s about 50 naira (15 US cents) and when you take it with Akara maybe 50 naira to 170 naira (50 US cents) and you are done for the day you can go and sleep and give you enough energy.”

Ndukwe has turned this ordinary cereal, which she first started selling out of her car to friends for less than one dollar in 2012, into a booming business with over 80 vendors across Nigeria.

A tub of Bubez Pap sells for 2.50 US dollars.

She is also working on a dry option for export as she tests the market among Nigeria’s large Diaspora population looking for a taste of home.

“So we are exporting, but not in large scale to even meet the demand of this product from outside of the country but we are exporting to the US and to the UK, and people travel with the products by themselves to places like Canada, Cyprus, South Africa, Germany and to many other places as well,” said Ndukwe.

The product’s packaging seems to be its unique selling point. While Pap has been sold in open air markets in light plastic bags for years, unless it is consumed or refrigerated within three days it can go bad.

“It is well packaged so I consider my family will prefer it to the local one which is usually sold in the open,” said Edward Abuul.

But Pap has been fed to babies and grown-ups in Nigeria for generations and as a matter of flavor and texture, nothing beats the traditional way of doing things, Lagos based teacher, Ayooliwa Adebimpe says.

“The one made locally actually has a sour taste and that is the beauty of the pap. That is what makes it delicious, especially if it is well prepared without lumps and if it is not watery. So the home made one, the locally made one, you can actually add some spice,” she said.

Nigeria is going through its worst economic crisis in years due to a fall in global oil prices. The government wants to wean itself off of oil and is encouraging local business to create wealth and boost employment.