Walking through the streets of down town Kampala, I cannot believe my eyes as I see a big orange sign with ‘BROOD’ on it, which is Dutch for ‘bread’. I have seen these billboards before in the Netherlands, displaying products of a quickly expanding family owned bakery. But what is a Dutch bread company doing in Africa? ‘Selling a lot of delicious multigrain bread’, Max Pater, the 23-year-old manager of BROOD Uganda, laughs. A year and a half ago BROOD took the big step of expanding to Africa. And already it runs four shops in Kampal.
For me being Dutch, it’s obviously a pleasant surprise to find a supplier of my old time favourite bread and other delicious products like ‘krentenbollen’ (raisin buns) and ‘speculaas’ (a typical Dutch type of biscuit) in the middle of Africa. But how about the Ugandans who might be addicted to their sticky, fat and extremely sweet bread? ‘In the beginning three-quarters of our customers were expats and tourists’, Pater admits. ‘But this rapidly shifted and now it’s actually the opposite as most customers are African.’ Some did need some education, the blond manager laughs. ‘One customer filed a complaint because after four days mold started to grow on his loaf. Because Ugandans add so many preservatives to their bread, they are not used to loaves only lasting for a few days.’
As products of BROOD are a bit more expensive than the average, the majority of their customers comes from Ugandans rapidly growing middle class. ‘We have many customers from the ministries surrounding the largest store’, the youngest son of the Pater family explains. With three motorbikes BROOD also delivers at hotels, embassies and offices all over the city. According to Pater many Ugandans really see the bread from BROOD as a status symbol. ‘As a result, they also want to be treated like kings,’ Pater chuckles.
‘Yes, it tastes a bit different. But it’s healthy, so that’s always good’, a Ugandan customer comments on the bread he just bought. Also the fried sweet dough balls called ‘oliebollen', which are snacks eaten by the Dutch on new year evening, are extremely popular among the Ugandans. ‘They really like sweet products. During the 50th independence day we sold five hundred of them in one day’, Pater tells.
Power outages, unreliable deliveries and the mentality of employees remain to be the biggest challenges. ‘Since we started, we fired more than twenty people for steeling, cheating and not showing up’, Pater admits. ‘Thankfully we also have many pearls who work very hard and sometimes are even studying full time next to their job. We sent some bakers to work in one of the bakery’s in the Netherlands for a few weeks. This made a world of difference in their working mentality upon return,’ Pater emphasizes.
In the meantime Pater’s mother started a bakery college in East-Uganda. ‘The first trainees will do an internship with us coming May.’ BROOD also wants to expand to other African countries, for example Kenya. ‘And after obtaining ISO certification we hope to supply the UN missions in East-Congo and South-Sudan. We receive requests from all over the continent but first of all we want to secure on our formula and quality.’