Nuts about starting a farming business? According to “Gog’ Lilly”, you simply have to start

In 2016, Thato Lilly Mabonela and members of her cooperative started an agro-processing business by buying peanut seeds from their communities and making organic peanut butter and peanut butter snacks. 

Today, their Gog’ Lilly products, which comprise three flavours of peanut butter (natural, cinnamon and raw honey) and roasted peanut snacks, are popular items among locals and at food markets and are bought and distributed by an NPO in Randburg, named Straight from the Ground. Best of all, they didn’t even need to own a farm, to become niche farmers.

Agro-processing means to take raw food and turn it into another product that people will either want to eat or use. Thato and her team opted for peanuts, because peanuts can be bought from other members of the community and they are a great, natural source of good fats, fibre and vitamins.

For this reason, the peanut is loved by members of the ever-growing health community, who use it in smoothies, bake with it or snack on it. Not to mention that kids adore it, which naturally means that their parents adore it too! It is to cater for the health community that Gog’ Lilly’s products have no salt, sugar, preservatives or added fats. 

Due to the fact that peanut butter is high in nutrients and energy, but relatively budget friendly, it has become an essential item on the grocery lists of South Africans. In fact, according to Stats SA, 0.05% of every R100 spent on groceries in South Africa goes towards a jar of peanut butter.

In total, we consume around 80 000 tonnes of peanut butter per year, but almost half of it has to be imported, as we do not currently produce enough peanut butter locally to meet the demand. This also means that making peanut butter has the potential to be a very lucrative business in our country. But, just how easy or how difficult is it to start your own peanut-butter-making business?

According to Thato from Gog’ Lilly, it obviously has its challenges, but she believes that anyone with enough patience, determination and perseverance will be able to do it. To get started, you need to have a market to supply to, some cash to buy peanuts, a commercial food processor, and a facility from which to work. You will also have to do proper research so you can gain all the technical knowledge needed to make your products. 

Basically, to make peanut butter, you first roast the peanuts, then grind them, and finally just keep on blending them in the food processor until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. While blending it, you can add different flavourings, oils, salt or sugar to taste. Should you wish to target the more health conscious among us, you can sweeten it with raw honey or keep it completely unsweetened.

Luckily, there is an entire online library of how-to videos and plenty of recipes you can try, until you’re able to develop your own unique blend of peanut butter. Plus, how big or small you want to start, is entirely up to you. “Most importantly,” says Thato, “If you’re interested in starting an agro-processing business like this, you really just need to start already. As you start, you will learn and grow with your business and you will gain the skills you need along the way.”