Zambia’s first plant-based beverage for the base of the pyramid market
260 Brands, a Zambian company operating from Lusaka, makes high quality consumer products using local ingredients sourced from smallholder farmers. With over 25 years of providing high-quality African food and beverages in Zambia, the company has a wide product range serving the local market and is also expanding into neighbouring countries. In September 2022, 260 Brands launched Zambia’s first locally produced plant-based beverage called Nutra Milk. Nutra Milk is a non-GMO plant-based drink made from soya beans and offers an affordable alternative to dairy milk. With support from SNV's Innovations Against Poverty (IAP) project, 260 Brands has invested in setting up a top-of-the-rage processing facility, established an inclusive supply chain, and developed an effective ‘last mile’ distribution system.
Nutra Milk is made with natural ingredients (soya bean) which is rich in plant protein and contains no artificial preservatives, an ideal choice for those looking to switch to a healthier diet. Nutra Milk is lactose free, a healthy dairy alternative, low in fat and calories, and provides essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based beverage is available in three delicious flavours and can also be consumed with cereal or used in baking. Soya milk products are available on the Zambia market, but these are imported and mainly found in urban supermarkets catering for the middle to high-income segment of the population. Since 260 Brands is sourcing the soya beans locally, the lower cost of production and subsequent lower pricing will enable it to compete favourably.
260 Brands’ healthy dairy alternative product comes in two packages: the aseptic pouch and Tetra packs. Due to its affordability, the smaller 500ml pouch was the first of its kind to be launched for the low-income market in September 2022. Nutra Milk is on average 15% cheaper than other milk products on the market.
Smallholder farmers in the supply chain
With the support from IAP, the company has developed an out-grower scheme of over 2,600 smallholder farmers (SHF) across five provinces in Zambia in the first year of the project and expected to exceed this number as it ramps up production. The company plans to grow these figures even further as it has engaged an agriculture training centre to support farmer recruitment and training in organic farming. The SHF’s are the main suppliers of organically grown soya beans which is the raw material for the soymilk production. The out-growers scheme is aimed at reducing agri-input expenses for smallholder farmers whilst increasing their income. As much as 260 Brands benefits from having a reliable supply of ingredients, smallholder farmers equally benefit by having a guaranteed market for, and reliable incomes from selling soya beans to the company. They also get soya bean seeds on credit. Farmers no longer need to move long distances to sell their produce as aggregation centres are established with lead farmers. This is where 260 Brands collects the produce. So far, the out-grower scheme has provided an assured income for more than 500 rural households. 321 metric tons of soya bean was bought from out-growers at a total value of €140,482 during 2021 and 2022.
Distribution and marketing
Since the launch of its soymilk operations in September 2022, 260 Brands is already distributing soymilk products to six provinces in Zambia and exporting to two neighboring countries, namely DR Congo and Botswana. The company uses a mix of distribution channels ranging from chain stores to last mile distribution methods. Distribution to the low-income market is done through small shops, commonly known as ‘ntembas’, which are popular in low-income rural and urban areas. This market segment is reached through a fleet of tricycles to enhance accessibility of the cheaper Nutramilk product.
How well is the product doing?
During a first one-month production trial period that started with the launch in September 2022, 260 Brands produced close to 140,000 litres of soymilk. By February 2023, approximately 20,000 litres of Nutramilk were sold. Most of the sales (75%) were recorded by larger supermarkets in Lusaka. The company is intensifying its marketing activities in low-income urban and rural locations.