GTBank Food & Drinks Festival: Platform for Growing SMEs

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By Kasie Abone

For the participants at the recently concluded GTBank Food and Festival in Lagos, there couldn’t have been a better platform to showcase their products and services to potential customers and suppliers. Besides the publicity given to the fair at no cost to the exhibitors, unlike other fairs, it was a very profitable outing as they didn’t have to pay for anything. “I am so proud of the fair. It showcases Nigeria. It shows people are thinking; they are thinking made in Nigeria content. If somebody has brought us together like this it means Nigeria is going to change and we are going to change it.” This was the reaction of Ms. Tele Ogundipe, founder and senior partner, Food Convee and one of the exhibitors at the fair held in Lagos. Ogundipe whose company packages egusi and ogbono with local spices in easy to cook packs further described the one of a kind event as “high standard.” “I can see the vision they (GTBank) have for entrepreneurs. That is what we need. This is what my bank has done for me. We sell our goods and all the money come to us because we didn’t pay for anything.” Excited Ogundipe who wished the event became annual said such opportunity would help grow SMEs like hers as well enable economic growth and development given the exposure and prospects the event provided her at no cost whatsoever.

Another exhibitor, Mrs. Elejo Peters, the Managing Director and CEO of Elejo Foods said the fair gave his company opportunity to showcase what they can do “with our own hands in this country – honey, processed bitter leaf, unpolished rice. The fair has given our customers opportunity to meet producers of our products.” Elejo who is full of gratitude to GTBank explained that Elejo Foods aims to bring back natural food to the table to address wellness, youth unemployment and women empowerment.

For Ndidi Nwuneli of Sango Ota, Ogun State based AACE Foods whose proudly Nigerian firm working with 2500 farmers pan-Nigeria with 12 NAFDAC registered products also attended the fair and expressed gratitude to GTBank for the exposure and interaction. “Instead of fashion show and concerts, this is what companies should be doing. It’s not that they are not good but events like this creates jobs, grows our economy.

The GTBank Food &Drinks fair provided a veritable platform for small and medium businesses take up stand to exhibit their products, interact with prospective custom and suppliers. Unlike other exhibitions the bank provided all the facilities including media publicity free of all charges such that all money made by the participants went into their pockets. Electricity, tables, chairs stalls, security, air-condition; fans, tags and even POS were all provided free.

The event exposed the creative ingenuity of Nigeria small businesses. Food, drinks and deserts etc delivered in assortment of innovative ways were on display by over 50 companies. Sumptuous local foods were prepared in a manner that was simply ingenious. The even was headlined by two acclaimed international chefs, Marcus Samuelsson and Raphael Duntoye. Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised Samuelsson is a James Beard Award-winning chef, New York Times bestselling author, and a judge for the highly rated TV show, “Chopped.” He is chef and owner of Red Rooster Harlem and Streetbird Rotisserie in New York. Nigerian born Duntoye is the chef patron and owner of Le Petite Maison with outlets in London, Dubai and Miami.

The Food and Drink fair, which was free to attend, provided a platform for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Nigerian food industry to promote their businesses by showcasing a wide variety of their products ranging from fresh organic groceries to dry foods, confectionary and pastries, ready to eat consumables , top quality crockery and wine and champagnes.

The fair also featured series of cooking Master Classes covering the latest culinary trends, and a diverse range of restaurants offering mouth-watering dishes, outdoor grills and thrilling entertainment.

The cooking Master Classes was headlined by Nigerian born Tiyan Alile, an internationally-acclaimed chef and President of Culinary Arts Practitioners Association of Nigeria/founder of the Culinary Academy. Several other top rated chefs who hosted master classes include: Gbubemi Fregene, Ozozo Sukoh, Alex Oke, Atim Ukoh, Iquo Ukoh, Michael Elegbede and Uzo Orimalade.

The chefs demonstrated before a live audience how to apply modern twist to classic Nigerian Cuisine as well as prepare some of the most amazing international cuisines. Attendees of the cooking classes were also treated to savoury food and wine tastings as well as enthralling celebrity chef face-offs including one by popular mother and daughter chefs, Iquo and Atim Ukoh.

There was a dedicated play area for children and Chef Uzo Orimolade hosted the “I can bake” Master Class series for the children.

Commenting on the event, Mr. Segun Agbaje, the Managing Director of the bank, said: “We are incredibly excited to showcase the diverse culinary mosaic that Nigeria uniquely offers to the world as a prime destination for food enthusiasts from around the world.

“In addition to showcasing the wide array of Nigeria’s culinary community as well as the richness of Africa’s cuisine, this fair reinforces our commitment to supporting small business and promoting our rich heritage.

GTBank has consistently played a leading role in Africa’s banking industry. The GTBank brand is regarded by industry watchers as one of the best run financial institutions across its subsidiary countries and serves as a role model within the financial service industry due to its bias for world class corporate governance standards, excellent service quality and innovation.”