Breakfast in a bottle in Uganda
AEN Uganda Ltd is a company which started in 2014 involved in agroprocessing of cereal malt beverages known as “Bushera”. The drinks are packaged in plastic bottles of 300ml and 500ml bottles ready to drink. A fermented malt of sorghum and millet is flavored with honey to make the beverage. Current production operations are carried out at Food Technology Business Incubation Centre, Makerere University in Kampala.
The beverage industry
The beverage industry is growing at a fast rate giving customers an opportunity to choose from a variety of drinks. A lot of these drinks contain caffeine and chemicals which can cause health related complications such as obesity and high blood pressure in the long-term. Bushera – a cereal malt beverage – is a nutritious, preservative and sugar free drink which is mainly used for breakfast. The product builds upon the tradition of taking sorghumbased meals as breakfast, which is now produced on a larger scale and sold ready-to-drink. Bushera contains nutrients such as iron, calcium, protein, fibers and energy which are vital for the body. It is processed with good manufacturing practices, pasteurized to eliminate any contamination and packaged in pet bottles, making the product unique.
Owners of the company
The owners of AEN are Ms. Esther Gloria Arinaitwe and Mr. Edgar Akampulira who started the business from scratch. They both have a Bachelor of Science in Technology, specialized in Chemistry. AEN won the ICCO Agribusiness Innovation Challenge award in October 2015 and since then, it has used the investments to expand its operations.
Involving women farmers
AEN puts special emphasis on women empowerment in order to uplift their standards of living. The company has organized 10 women farmer groups growing sorghum and millet in the south west of Uganda. Each farmer group consists of 20 smallholder farmers. The farmers are trained on modern methods of farming and are given improved varieties of sorghum and millet that grow fast. They are also given post-harvest materials like tarpaulins for drying the cereals. The farmers are assured of market access for their production.
The social impact created by AEN is three-fold: 1) providing over 300 smallholder farmers and casual laborers employed in processing with income to sustain their livelihood; 2) food security is enhanced since the 200 women smallholder farmers use part of the produce for their household food requirements; and 3) AEN provides healthy and nutritious drinks to the low-middle class in the market.
Being a local product which is understood by the local population, Bushera is among the fast selling beverages in the category of nutritious ‘ready to drink’ products. The population of Uganda grows by over one million people annually which represent a huge market potential. At the moment, over 80% of the sales take place in Kampala. AEN has identified distributers in the south-west of the country. When the production increases in the future, the company will be able to sell Bushera in this region. Also, AEN anticipates exploring other untapped markets in Eastern Uganda. The company just secured a standard mark from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). This will enable the company to penetrate up-market stores and retail outlet chains.