GOING BACK TO TRADITIONAL CEREALS FOR HEALTHIER CAKES

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A young entrepreneur giving parties a new taste of cakes in the ‘eat healthy era’

Growing up in a household of culinary enthusiasts (his mother is  a nutritionist), Peter Okumu could not help but develop interest in expressing creativity in the kitchen. This would gradually become a hobby and after high school, he thought of hitting the business world with baking as his hustle. Several years later, the risk he took is paying off a thousand fold. “Whenever there was an opportunity to exhibit my pastries, I would seize it and better my art and that way, I have perfected my craft in baking,” explains Okumu.
Okumu now runs a family business alongside his siblings that was started by his mother. “We bake cakes from various flours ranging from maize meal, sweet potatoes, sorghum and cassava.”
They buy ground flour from the stores as it is pure and can make fine cakes as compared to collecting grains from the farmers and milling them. “This is the convenient way of doing it and assures us of good quality flour while saving us the tedious and at times costly logistics of having to transport cereal from the rural areas  and processing it.”
The current times are in favour of this business as people are gradually embracing healthy eating. There has been a growing craze of people wanting to go back to traditional foods and minimize on wheat intake, and this aspect of the market has been a booster to their business. “Even those on diet need not miss out on the party, we have packages for various events including birthday parties, weddings and any other ceremony that requires cakes as is our social custom.”
Apart from the cereal cakes, this family business also deals in the production of natural juices. “We blend fruits with water and package the juices, to which we only add a little sugar when necessary.” As Peter explains, their customers have grown fond of the fresh juices on their menu and frequently place orders especially for birthday parties involving kids, as they are less likely to cause sugar-related infections among children.

Their target market
As is common knowledge, most of the non-communicable diseases can be treated by taking the right diet. Focusing to serve people with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, the enterprise has cut a niche of such markets, including parents with young children, who like to treat their kids to cakes while still maintaining their dietary goals.
“Our target market is anyone who is diet conscious and would like to cash in on our creative, nutritional products to achieve his or her dietary goals.”

Health outlook on nutritional diet
Diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—such as heart disease, stroke and cancer are becoming rampant in our modern society. In health centres for example, a very high percentage of patients are suffering from non-communicable diseases and consequently, many lives are being lost.
Eating and lifestyle habits are to blame
Studies show that the increased consumption of unhealthy food is a major risk factor for NCDs. Traditionally, 20 or 30 years ago, people depended more on healthy foods rich in grains and vegetables. Currently, people depend on processed foods thAat are available in markets all over the country.
At the same time, physical activity is declining as most people depend on motorized transport. In addition, as buildings replace playgrounds, children are left with few places to engage in sports. Tobacco and alcohol use are other  risk factors for NCDs.
Consuming too many carbohydrates, such as sugar, significantly raises the risk for developing a lipid profile that in turn increases risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Excess sugar intake is associated with weight gain and obesity. Being obese or overweight raises the risk for many health conditions besides diabetes and heart disease. These include high blood pressure, stroke, gallbladder and liver diseases, osteoarthritis, gynecological problems such as infertility, respiratory problems, sleep apnea and colon, breast and endometrial cancers, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
A venture such as this is therefore highly significant not only for its economic sense, but as a natural solution to many health challenges rocking our society today.

Innovation is the backbone of a successful business
It’s all innovation and creativity inside Okumu’s kitchen as he uses a traditional oven to bake his cakes. “This oven uses very little firewood and it is cost effective as opposed to baking with electricity which is extremely expensive,” he advises. The traditional oven he says is highly efficient and friendly to the environment.

Other ventures
Apart from the pastry business, Okumu is a senior associate at Sal Consulting Ltd, which deals in hosting and facilitating events.For him, business is about taking risks and doing things for a cause. “The fact that we make delicacies out of natural and nutritious farm products, is motivation enough to keep us going,” he concludes.

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