MEET COVER STAR Nicole Rogers: Becoming A Part Of Africa’s Food Taste And Flavor Market

Published 8 months ago
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Words and Curation: Chanel Retief and Lillian Roberts
Art Director: Lucy Nkosi Photography: Katlego Mokubyane
Photography Assistant: Sbusiso Sigidi Studio: NewKatz Studio, Johannesburg
CNBC Africa Videographer: Thabo Mathebula
Video Editor: Chanel Retief
Styling: Bontlefeela Mogoye and Wanda Baloyi
Outfits supplied by: Kworks Design; Imprint South Africa; House of Suitability; LSJ Designs
Hair & Makeup: Makole Made

Covid-19 halted business, leading to lives and livelihoods lost and ruined economies worldwide. For Nicole Rogers, it had the opposite effect.

“During Covid-19, we really took the plunge because we were able to insulate in Kenya for a bit and I got a huge opportunity to incubate my own ideas,” Rogers says. “…But we have a really audacious dream. And we know people and we know things that can help the dream be realized and we’re willing to take risks.”

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As a purposeful entrepreneur, what drove the Canadian-born CEO to the bread basket of Africa and this dream was the law of economics.

“Kenya has a strong and established horticultural export value chain…And so a lot of the produce that consumers in the United Kingdom and Europe are purchasing is grown in Kenya.”

But it also started with a strong sense of taste, and flavors, in becoming a part of Africa’s food flavor and enhancer market, forecast to witness a CAGR of 5.12% during 2020-2025, according to a report by Mordor Intelligence.

When considering starting a plant-based B2B ingredient company (now Butterfly Foods) transforming regenerative grown crop inputs into high-quality flavors for today’s leading food brands, the one question on Rogers’ mind was why some foods taste better in some regions and are different in others?

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This research led her to the soil and improving soil health. According to Rogers, when you have scaled operations or have big farms, growing one single crop could lead to the crop losing its intimacy with the soil, thus the flavors then get lost, sometimes even the nutrients.

“For me, what sustainability tastes like is Africa,” Rogers explains. “Like truly, it tastes like Africa does–it’s a nuance of flavors. It depends on the soil. It’s crazy…And it’s really unique to Africa; I don’t see how you could do it in a lot of other places. You can’t do this in Europe!” She also works a lot with women as she believes women always have a better palate, with the ability to identify flavors such as bitter, sweet, and sour more strongly.