One of the six core sectors government is banking on move away from dependence on oil for survival, is agriculture. The ultimate goal of government in investing in the sector is to achieve food security for Nigerians apart from positioning it as a major source of earning foreign exchange for the country. Bamidele Famoofo reports that forward-looking companies like NASCON Allied Industries Plc, through research and innovation are making efforts to help the government achieve its goal
It is an indisputable fact that there is a symbiotic relationship between agriculture, national transformation and economic development in view of the role of agriculture in the provision of food, raw materials for industries and employment opportunities for Nigeria’s teeming population.
Before the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in the 1950s, agriculture was the mainstay of the national economy, which was to a very large extent a multi commodity export economy, but with the advent of oil, lesser and lesser attention started being given to the agricultural sector.
Before oil, Nigeria depended on agriculture for her foreign exchange earnings, but with the neglect of agricultural sector, the country started encountering social, economic and political woes.
To reverse the unsavory trend, government through the federal ministry of agriculture launched its short-term policy on agriculture christened ‘Green Alternative’ which has considerably transformed the food supply chain through provisioning of conducive environment, reviewing and updating key policies to encourage investment in the food and beverage sector in the country.
Consequently, food industries are investing massively on different types of products to assist the Federal Government in meeting food security in Nigeria.
According to economic experts, made-in-Nigeria goods will boost the nation’s manufacturing sector and by extension create more jobs. It is through this that indigenous firms can take advantage of bigger markets at regional, continental and global levels.
NASCON Allied Industries Plc, a subsidiary of Dangote Industries Limited, is one of the few indigenous companies in Nigeria that has taken it upon itself to explore the opportunities presented by government to contribute its quota to the development of the economy through new products development. Specifically, the company has over the years invested heavily in the production of salt and different brands of seasoning in the country.
“The company is passionate about backward integration projects as a strategy to diversify and add more value to both its shareholders and the Nigerian economy,” Group Managing Director of NASCON Allied Industries Plc, Mr. Paul Farrer said.
“NASCON Allied Industries is the company to watch out for in the future, as it is breaking new grounds while embarking on projects that would enable it remain a reference point in the food industry,” Farrer added.
Most recently the company increased its products portfolio with the launch of three new cooking seasonings. The seasonings which include Classic Seasoning cube, curry powder and stew mix, according to NASCON, clearly shows its commitment in ensuring quality and affordable food products in Nigeria.
Executive Director, Commercial NASCON Allied Plc, Fatima Dangote, said the classic seasoning cubes and stew mix were created with a special blend of herbs and spices to give meals unique taste and aroma. She made the disclosure at the launch of the new products recently in Kano,
Dangote pledged the company’s commitment towards a healthy living to the people by producing products that meet the physical and mental needs of the people.
The new product, which the NASCON boss described as a product of thorough and painstaking research into the preference of the people in the seasoning sub-sector of the food industry came in the wake of a similar launch recently, of new Curry Powder and Stew Mix from the stable of NASCON.
Dangote said she had no doubt in her mind that the new product would be an instant hit given its unique taste, flavor and aroma, noting that the new classic seasoning cubes and stew mix were created with a special blend of herbs and spices to give meals that unique taste and great aroma.
She described the new classic seasoning as a new innovation birthed after years of consumer led research and development, and urged distributors, marketers, eateries and consumers to immediately key into it.
Buttressing her remarks with the Hausa local dialect, while explaining the strengths of the product, she described the seasoning as ‘Karshen Magana’ meaning the ‘Real Deal’ and that it is second to none in the market throughout the country.
According to her, the management of NASCON decided to go into the research for the new product bearing in mind that wellbeing of the consumers.
Good nutrition, she said, sustains human immune system and delays the effect of aging because it reduces the risk of chronic disease while poor diet reduces physical and mental health.
She therefore urged women to try the new seasoning cubes, stew mix and curry powder, as they would ensure meal moments are great moments.
The products are expected to be launched in other parts of the country very soon. “Despite the high innovative quality, they are affordable and available with various promotional items to be given out to the distributors and consumers,” NASCON said.
Farrer assured that the new product was a high margin product that would help ensure distributors and customers remain profitable, describing the new product as premium but affordable to the consumers.
He reiterated the company’s commitment to rigorous industry and regulatory standards that ensure quality products for Nigeria’s ever-increasing consumer and developing industrial markets.
“Our products have Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) certifications,” he enthused.
Speaking on the company’s future plans, Farrer said that NASCON will remain strongly focused on growth, and would be leveraging on a range of opportunities within the business to build scale across the company’s brands. “We intend to deliver on our promises made to all stakeholders.
“We will continue to leverage synergies and enhance efficiencies across the business operations to curtail costs. Product innovation and improvement in our seasoning business aimed at delivering savory taste experiences will remain a priority. At NASCON, we maintain a value chain pricing model that recommends the prices of our retail packs, whilst ensuring our products are available in convenience stores across the country.”
Attesting to the quality of the product, NASCON key distributor, Alhaji Hamisu Rabiu of Hamis Investment in Kano, described NASCON products as fast moving and of good quality.
He urged other distributors and retailers across the country to immediately key into the new classic cube, Dangote stew mix and Dangote curry powder.
Head of Marketing of NASCON Allied Industries Plc, Mr. Olusegun Ajala, expressed optimism that the “innovative brand will up the company’s market share exponentially because of its unique taste and aroma.
Besides the seasonings, NASCON is engaged in the refining and marketing of salt of different grades: kitchen, table and industrial. The company is the leading salt manufacturer in Nigeria considering it controls more than 60 per cent of the market and provides employment for over 600 people.
“NASCON’s Dangote Salt, which comes in 250g, 500g and 1kg poly bags (sachets), is extra refined to give a purer and finer textured product, thus guaranteeing superior quality. Dangote refined salt is Iodized (using iodide) to promote good health by reducing the chances/risks of iodine deficiency. Dangote salt is refined from the finest quality sea-salts,” Ajala said.
Still on the quality of the product, Dangote said: “For us, salt is more than just the mineral that enhances the flavour in food, as an essential element in our diet, we fortify it with iodine under UNICEF guidelines and Nigerian regulations to combat iodine deficiency disorders.
“We are expanding, we are investing on new refinery for our salt, and we are also looking at innovations; we are bringing other products that are looking forward to introducing new products. So, hopefully, 2019 will be a better year for the company and also importantly for the shareholders,” she added.
“We place shareholders interest so high because they have actually trusted us, they have invested in our business and as you can see, regardless of our challenges, we are still able to push really hard and declare profits. We have to take our shareholders very seriously so that they can continue to trust in us, and by so doing, more people will keep buying our shares and hold us in high regard.”
Despite challenges in the country’s industrial sector, NASCON has continued to deliver good return to shareholders.
According to Farrer, through intense focus and operational discipline, the company delivered unprecedented returns in its salt segment and also increased sales in the highly competitive seasoning market.
For the financial year ended 31st December 2017, the company recorded an impressive turnover of N27.06 billion, representing a 48 per cent improvement on N18.29 billion in the previous year.
Also, profit after tax increased by 121 per cent from N2.42 billion in 2016 to N5.34 billion, and earnings per share grew by 122 per cent from N0.91 to N2.02. In addition, the company maintained its financial stability with N9.4 billion in cash reserves.
Chairman of the company, Yemisi Ayeni, expressed optimism about 2019, saying as the company maintains strong commitment to executing its sustainable growth strategy, growing consumer trust and shareholder confidence remains a priority.