It goes without saying that Ouma Rusks is one the most recognized brand in South Africa, the brand was launched 82 years ago by the Greyvenstein family in the small town of Molteno, Eastern Cape.
For the most part, many great ideas are born out of necessity and the humble beginnings of Ouma Rusks is no different.
The story of Ouma Rusks begins way back in 1939, a period of time when the world was faced with massive economic challenges. The Great Depression had completely wiped out the economy of rural towns.
Elizabeth Ann Greyvenstyn, popularly known as Ouma Nannie, attended a local church meeting alongside her friends, where means of earning money were discussed.
After the brainstorming session, their church Minister gave every attendee a half-crown(30 British pennies) and challenged them to grow the money according to the suggestions they made during the meeting.
Ouma Greyvenstein then used the money to buy the necessary ingredients to make her old family-recipe Rusks she got from her husband’s cousin Emmarentia. On the next church bazaars, Ouma’s first batch of rusks sold out within minutes and on top of that, more orders came pouring in.
Word spread out quickly and the demand for Ouma’s rusks continued to grow.
When Leon Greyvenstein, Ouma’s eldest son, saw the great potential her mother’s rusks had, he set off on a road trip in his Ford bakkie and loaded up the rusks to further investigate the possibility of a market up north.
When he got there, the rusks sold out as well and he immediately sensed the potential for good business. Upon his return to Molteno, he started by converting the modest farm barn to a rudimentary rusk factory. He achieved this by using an old car engine for a rusk dryer and also built a couple of clay ovens.
At first when the business officially started, the rusks were sold under the name of Uitspan, which was later changed to Outspan and as the rusk empire grew much higher in South Africa, it was rebranded to Ouma Rusks as you know it today.
In 1941, the business needed to expand, this prompted the Greyvenstein family to approach Industrial Development Corporation(IDC) for a loan, they were given £1,500.
When they got it, they transformed the previous made-up factory into a proper factory, this was one of IDC’s earliest investments.
In 1952, the factory burned down but in due course, a bigger and better factory was built in the same spot.
After the Greyvenstyn family successfully created and marketed Ouma Rusks, they wanted to diversify their business, and in 1957, Leon decided to seek out new opportunities and founded Simba…..well that’s a story for another day.
In 1970, the Greyvenstein family sold the business to Fedfood and over the years, the brand has had a number of corporate owners including the current one, RCL Foods.
While new flavors and varieties might have been added over the years, the recipe itself has never changed.
In 2013, due to deteriorating roads, electricity & water supply, the town of Molteno nearly lost Ouma Rusks along with its 250 jobs as then owner, FoodCorp, considered moving the factory to Gauteng in Randfontein.
But after after a careful consideration for the sake of Molteno, the CEO saw decided it was best for the factory to remain in Eastern Cape. This came after the discussions with Eskom, Inkwacana Municipality and relevant parties were fruitful.
The Rusk factory was once again given a face-lift as Foodcorp added a 46 million investment to build a new factory. At that time, it was the biggest investment ever made in Molteno.
From the humble beginnings of 30 British pennies , Ouma’s rusk empire has certainly emerged and grew into one of Mzansi’s most popular food brands.
The Greyvenstein family have shown that no company is successful without hardwork and an effective management to stimulate the growth of the business. These elements were critical components behind the success story of Ouma Rusks.