A child’s birthday celebration, a kitchen full of hungry preteens and a spontaneous decision, all led to the existence of Browns Corn Dogs — the brand was launched in 2019 by husband & wife, Mabel and Wale Akinlabi.
Three years ago, Mabel and Wale Akinlabi, Johannesburg, hosted a birthday celebration for their daughter, and it was in their kitchen that they took baby steps into the food production and retail sector.
“During our daughter’s 11th birthday party I yanked out corn dogs that I was making. The kids loved these things, and I asked them all: ‘If we make these would you ask your parents to buy you some?’ and the answer was an emphatic ‘Yes!’,”
That spirited ‘YES’ inspired the couple to launch their company, Brown Foods in 2019.
The Akinlabis, both with successful backgrounds in media and broadcasting, were entirely new to the world of food production.
“We conducted many trials that included food scientists before we concluded our corndog recipe. We wanted to be certain that our recipe would appeal to the South African pallet.
We conducted thorough research, from the type of wood to use, to the stick, to the flavour profile that South Africa would love after which we came to the conclusion that three delicious variants “Awesome original, Creamy cheese and Jalapeno cheese would be popular among South Africans and our sales figures have proven that we were spot on.”
They then bought the necessary equipments from the US – the original home of the corndog. Afterwards, they worked on polishing their recipes while building up their business in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, which was at the time shutting down businesses like the one they had just launched.
It took hard work, perseverance and never backing down from challenges to break into the unfamiliar food retail market. While they were still mastering their recipe, they took their next big step by approaching Shoprite for a distribution deal.
“We asked what pricing would be fair, we wanted to find out what regions we should go into, what distributors we should use, do they like our packaging, what do consumers like… Information that we could’ve learnt painfully, but our buyer held our hands through the process,”
Today Browns Foods supplies Browns Corn Dogs to South Africa’s leading retailers including the likes of ShopRite, Checkers, Pick N Pay, Food Lover’s and Spar.
They were also able to expand their range to include two more flavours: Creemy Cheese and Jalapeño Cheese, in addition to the first flavor, Awesome Original.
To top it all off, Brown Foods has created over 57 jobs, with plans to expand in other African countries.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs??
“If you have a brilliant idea, tell someone else about it and make yourself accountable to someone. Now it’s out there, so you’ve got to do something about it.”Mabel Akinlabi, co-founder of Browns Foods
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