I am nuts about cashews for their good, painless profits 

Rebecca Munga weighs cashew nuts before packaging at her home in Diani, Kwale County.  After losing her job due to the coronavirus pandemic, she moved on to growing her side hustle that involves adding value to cashew nuts. PHOTO | BOZO JENJE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Inside her two-bedroom house in Diani, the kitchen is her new office. The 44-year-old roasts , packs and sells the nuts here.
  • She hit the ground running, roasting the nuts and starting to sell them. But her business ran into headwinds as customers complained that the nuts were of poor quality.
  • She prepares two products, unroasted and roasted nuts. The former are smoked using firewood to remove the shell. 
  • She uses social media sites –WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram – to reach a wider market. 

Diani, in Kwale County, is popular for its sandy beaches and the hotel industry, which has, however, taken a hit  due to Covid-19.

The pandemic has seen hundreds of workers lose their jobs. Rebecca Munga, a front office employee, is one of them, but she has moved on to growing her side hustle that involves adding value to cashew nuts.

Inside her two-bedroom house in Diani, the kitchen is her new office. The 44-year-old roasts , packs and sells the nuts here.

She started the enterprise in 2019. “I went into the business because cashew nuts are loved as a snack on the Coast by both locals and tourists. I researched on where to get the nuts and the possible market,” she offers.

Her enquiries led her to a women’s group, from which she bought 10 kilos of the nuts at Sh600 each, recalls Rebecca, who holds a certificate in front office operations from Utalii College.

She hit the ground running, roasting the nuts and starting to sell them. But her business ran into headwinds as customers complained that the nuts were of poor quality.

“It took me two months to sell the first stock and I had to discontinue the source of the raw nuts,” she says of the product she has branded Chikwehu cashew nuts.

Having found a new source of the nuts, her sales increased from 10 to 50 kilos a month. But Covid-19 struck, leading to closure of hotels and affecting the general business environment.

“Out of work, I chose to push the nuts business because I now had all the time,” says Rebecca.

Once she gets the nuts, she sorts them, washes and salts them. She, thereafter, adds olive oil to make them shiny.

She prepares two products, unroasted and roasted nuts. The former are smoked using firewood to remove the shell. 

Cost of production

After heating at high temperatures, the shell becomes brittle and loosens and the kernels are then extracted and packed.

For the roasted ones, she heats the extracted kernels at 180 degrees Celsius in an air fryer for three minutes, until they turn golden brown. She then cools, weighs and packages them based on orders.

She buys 100 pieces of packaging envelopes at Sh2,200 and makes branded stickers at Sh10 each. She also uses reusable plastic containers that go for Sh15 each for 1kg orders.

“I sell the unroasted cashew nuts at Sh150 per 100g and a kilo at Sh1,300. The roasted nuts go for Sh175 for the 100g pack and Sh1,750 for a kilo. The roasted nuts have a shelf-life of six months.” On order, she flavours the nuts, making honey-glazed or chilled products.

Rebecca says that from a pack of 10 kilos of raw nuts,  she makes a profit of Sh2,000.

She uses social media sites –WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram – to reach a wider market. 

She also relies on referrals. She targets shops and grocers such as Nancy Grocery in Diani and mini–markets.

“My strategy is to go for the retail market by packaging in smaller 25g and 50g packs that can be accessed by many people,” says Munga, who invested Sh30,000 in the business . Her prices, she says, were informed by those in the market. “I also looked at my costs of production and set the mark-up price to ensure I don’t make losses.”

So, how did she settle on the brand name Chikwehu cashew nuts?

Value addition

“Chikwehu means going back to the roots. It reminds me of my culture.”
Her eco-friendly packaging material, according to her, was informed by her enthusiasm for conservation.

For small-scale production like hers, a weighing scale and air fryer is enough. 
But for large-scale production, one needs a commercial oven for roasting and water tanks for cleaning the nuts.

She has applied for her products to be certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards so that she can sell in formal markets. 

“To do value addition, you must be creative, innovative and have a passion for unique products. Again, don’t be afraid of failure because if you are, you will not introduce your products”

“With all the uncertainty in the job sector, I want to concentrate on value addition and turn it into a thriving business,” says Munga, who obtained culinary skills from Utalii College and also learns from You Tube videos.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology food and nutrition scientist Dr John Kinyuru says apart from roasted nuts, one can also make pastes, powders, snacks and oils from cashew nuts.

Kinyuru, a lecturer in the Department of Food Science and Technology, notes that there is good money in value addition, which extends the shelf-life of a product.

He noted the nuts are rich in selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorous and are also great sources of phytochemicals, proteins and antioxidants.

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