Three years after a long struggle trying to find a job with little luck after graduating from the University of Nairobi (UoN) in 2012, Irene Ikarede Etyang decided to try something new.
As she was paying a visit in 2015 to the Kenyatta National Hospital children’s cancer ward, Ms Etyang decided to venture into research, focusing on ways to reduce the non-communicable disease burden in the country.
With the help of her knowledge from the food science and technology course she had just completed, Ms Etyang came up with a snack which can be taken comfortably by people suffering from health conditions such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart complications.
The yummy snack is now sold under the brand name “Tasty Millet Meal Bar.”
“Obesity is on the rise in our country and Africa at large. I decided to come up with a snack for people with obesity and my Tasty Millet Meal Bar is a good re-placement for the sweet things they like because it is a low-fat food and is highly nutritive,” said Ms Etyang, whose hard work on the product since 2015 culminated in a nutritional test at UoN and its eventual certification by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) last year.
The 30-year old food scientist said the nibbles are made from millet, groundnuts and honey. She also wants to introduce simsim as an ingredient to the product.
The raw materials are fetched from all parts of Busia County because they are readily available.
Hers is a cottage industry and, in a small factory that also serves as her home, the innovative entrepreneur has installed a small packaging machine and a fabricated mould.
She also makes use of a posho mill where the groundnuts and millet are ground to their specifications in terms of particle size.
“I decided to come up with a tasty healthy food because most of them are taste-less. For the people with diabetes, they are not allowed to take sugar so the product is appropriate to their health status. The snack is gluten free, there is no artificial colouring or sugar added,” she said.
Her idea was validated by the great feedback she received after showcasing the invention to her colleagues last year during the Young African Leaders’ Initiative (Yali) at the Kenyatta University, the regional leadership centre.
The members of Yali includes delegates from Central African Republic Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somaliland among others.
Ms Etyang says that the Tasty millet meal bar is highly nutritious as it contains high percentage of Calcium, iron and Zinc. It has low calories and also contains other nutrients that includes proteins, phosphorus and carbohydrates.
She has sold some of the products in medium packets to her customers since January.
Ms Etyang will be launching the product at Suddex hotel, Amagoro on June 30.
Ms Etyang is planning to set up a processing plant for the Tasty millet meal bar in Busia County where the machines will cost her about Sh2 million.
“From the inlet to the outlet the processing plant will comprise of a miller, mixer, blender, moulder and a larger packaging machine,” said the entrepreneur who also hopes to tap into an international niche market for her products.