Sam Turyatunga like other Ugandans was well aware of the abundance of fruits in Uganda but unlike a lot of Ugandans, he sought to take advantage of this.
Turyatunga was studying food science at the Kyambogo University when it hit him that he could start a fruit juice manufacturing business.
“Uganda is a banana country everywhere you go you find bananas, but they sell at very low prices. I saw an opportunity to do value addition and make natural fruit juices,” he told How We Made It In Africa.
Sam Turyatunga markets his juices under the Uhuru Fruits Drinks brand, making banana and mango fruit juices as well as non-alcoholic fermented wines and popular Ugandan drink Bushera.
His business began in 2013 while he was still in University. He would make drinks in his hostel and sell them to fellow students. As business picked up, he moved production to the university’s laboratory.
Soon enough the school’s lab became too small to produce the amount that would match the demand for the drinks.
In 2015, he moved to a manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala where he produces up to 500 litres a day.
“In Uganda people take a lot of flavored carbonated drinks. However, there is an emerging trend with more and more people taking juices. The two leading juice brands are Minute Maid, which is made by Coca-Cola, and Afia (manufactured by Kevian Kenya),” he said.
“Our prices are lower when compared to these two brands. So we are mainly targeting youths, especially those in school. Remember many young people in Uganda are either unemployed or their earnings are very small. Our products sell very fast here – I put it on a shelf and in three days it’s out because it is what the youth can afford.”
Sam Turyatunga’s business story does remind one that there’s wealth in agriculture. The Agro sector is one that Africa has been blessed with but rather than capitalize on the need for these products, we commonly export them to the west who in turn sell the finished products to us at a higher price.
Some cite mechanization was a hindrance to Africa’s manufacturing sector but companies like Sam Turyatunga’s prove that we can start from somewhere. Although most of the organization of the fruits drink is done manually owing to the lack of machines that can do the same work faster, he hasn’t given up.
He says he has learned “to grow step by step. When I started the business I was using UGX 30,000 ($9) to buy fruits from farmers, but today I am happy to see trucks come here to deliver fruits. So we have grown, one just has to be patient.
“I have also learnt to stay focused. During the rainy season sales go down and you can get frustrated knowing there’s not much activity in the factory. Sometimes you fix one problem and another arises. So you have to be focused, be flexible, and be willing to adapt to changes.
“Going into employment can be tempting – but I stay put knowing that I will achieve my goals one day, even if it takes 10 years.”