How to start a healthy food business in Nigeria

If you’re wondering whether or not to start a healthy food business in Nigeria, read. In 3 years, entrepreneurs like Ada (Nuli Foods) have been able to grow a multi-branch healthy food and snack brand – a feat that would ordinarily have taken at least 20 years to build. In the same way, Nellie (Nellies Nigeria) an oil servicing employee was able to create her own recipes and grow her healthy food brand on Instagram alone. This explosive success stories the strength of the market demand in this area, and when starting a business, market demand (not personal passion) is usually the strongest indicator of success.

But why is this niche doing so well? Perhaps more and more people are concerned about their health and are choosing healthier eating options? Oats instead of cassava for ‘swallow’, smoothies, ketogenic diet etc? These are all trends we have slowly noticed over the last few years. Perhaps it is the poor health infrastructure that drives the demand for healthier food as people try to avoid hospital visits?

Whatever the reason, there is no better time to start a business in this niche. But this is not just a profitable niche – it is also a great way to contribute positively to the health and wellbeing of your customers. Therefore, if it is important for you to be able to make a positive contribution to your society through whatever business venture you choose, this is the business for you. The fact that the capital required for this business is minimal adds to the long list of why a healthy food and snack business is the right business to start this year.

As with every new business, you should have an open, active mind that is ready to learn, as each industry comes with its own unique planning and legal considerations – and the food business is not an exception. If you are looking to start a successful healthy food business, there are a few things which will need to be put in place from the start.

Healthy food is a broad topic, so in this guide, I will focus on creating a healthy food and snack store which retails healthy snacks, juices, smoothies, plant-based milk etc. In this guide, I will cover the following areas:

  • Planning your business
  • Testing your business idea
  • Required equipment and estimated cost
  • Marketing strategy
  • Legal considerations

Step 1 : Create a healthy food business plan

You have probably heard the popular saying – he who fails to plan, plans to fail. It is important to create a business plan because this helps you table out, your objectives and how you can go about accomplishing them. This doesn’t just work for the healthy food business, but also for every business that you consider starting. Business plans can be long and complex, but the main points your plan should cover are

  • how will you produce what you want to sell?
  • how will you sell what you want to sell?

Here are a few more questions you should think about while creating a plan for starting a healthy food business in Nigeria.

  • Why do I want to start this business? Everyone starts a business to earn an income but is there anything else you want to contribute? Do you want people to live healthier lives?
  • What problem will I be solving? Is there a shortage of healthy snacking options in your area? Are there no businesses that can help people support their healthy eating habits? Do people on diets struggle to find affordable food in your area?
  • Who is my target customer? This is not just a men/women question. You need to be as specific as saying something like “Women over 40 who work, and need to get back in shape after kids”
  • How will my target customer hear about me? Should I rent a store in a location with high foot traffic? Advertise on social media?
  • What resources do I have to make this happen? Do I have access to funds? Access to suitable properties? Do I know anyone who might be able to play a crucial role?
  • What permissions do I need from the powers that be? Is there any state legislation to be aware of?
  • How much should I expect to earn from this?
  • How much should I expect to put into this?

Your answers to these will help you to create your objectives for the business. Even if you are not seeking investment, this is an important step to take as it helps you to put your vision in tangible form. Napoleon Hill spent 20 years researching 500 successful people and having a written goal/vision was one thing that was consistent. But you don’t even have to spend 20 years of your life to find this out because as far back as 2,000 years ago, the Bible recognised the value of writing plans down.

“Write the vision, make it plain on tablets…” Habbakuk 2:2

Once written down, remember to go over your plans to ensure that they clearly reflect your vision for your health food business. Your plans should cover the sort of healthy foods and snacks you intend to sell, how you intend to produce them, what equipment you intend to purchase for production, how you will present/package your food product, how much it will cost, how much inventory you will need to keep, who will staff your outlet, how much you will pay them/yourself among others, how much minimum sales you will need to make each day to be able to afford to keep your doors open.

Step 2: Research your market

Now we’re getting to the point where you need to start taking action. Once you have finished the planning and decided the numbers for your health food business make sense, it is time to “enter market” and find out what is happening on ground. Your main task is to find out what sort of people are likely to buy what you’re looking to sell, and who they currently buy from… otherwise known as your target market and your existing competition. This will help you understand your potential customers better, as well as how best to reach them. This isn’t a big research project – it could be as simple as just sitting in your competitor’s store (it might be a good idea to place an order your competing products, of course), and just watch out for what items customers like to purchase.

Once you have created a picture of who you think your client is, you will need to start building a collection of healthy food and snacks likely to appeal to this customer. You watched this customer order something from your potential competitor – can you improve on your competitor’s product or offer? Can you create a menu that your customer will love so much that he/she has no choice but to switch?

Build your menu and offers. You menu holds the winning formula for your venture – your products, so take time to craft a menu with your customer in mind. The great thing is that others have opened up the market for you, so you don’t have to pioneer anything (unless you want to).

Some healthy snacks you can easily learn to make and offer include:

  • Smoothies
  • Tiger nut milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Almond bread
  • Coconut bread
  • Granola
  • Oat bars
  • Low carb crackers
  • Beef jerky
  • Suya
  • Flaxseed wraps
  • Salads
  • Baked snacks

If you have a special recipe or snacks you’ve created, you can also introduce it to your customers, and that may give you the cutting-edge in the food business.

You could get some inspiration from the menus of other healthy food and snack stores such as Nuli, Nellies and Green Grill House.

Step 3 : Identify a location

Once you have decided what you want to sell, it’s time to decide how you want to sell it. The minimum you should aim for, even with very limited funds is for:-

  • a physical store in a high-traffic area such as a shopping mall, a busy shopping street, close to fitness centres or a major supermarket. It is obvious that these spaces will come at a premium, so you might have to settle for a space with a small seating area, while giving your customers the option to order online. If you want to prepare your food and drinks on-site, will you have space for a sink so that you can wash/peel fruit and vegetables? Will you have space for a fridge or freezer to preserve fresh food?
  • an online presence which accepts orders online and delivers your food to your customers. This way, you can serve your customers better by being able to cater to them, even when they are not within the vicinity of your store. You can either choose to work with one or two okada riders and a Whatsapp number for orders, or you could sign up to businesses with an existing trusted network such as Jumia Food and GoFoodNG.

Step 4 : Buy equipment

Now that you have decided on your menu and the business is starting to come alive on paper, it’s time to put some flesh on the bones and start looking at the equipment you will need to make things happen.

Drinks are probably going to be one of your biggest sellers, so it might be a good idea to start with considering drinks equipment based on what drinks items you have chosen on your menu. Will you sell smoothies or nut juices? If so you will need a blender. Will you sell fresh orange juice? If so you will need a citrus juicer.

The basic equipment you will likely need (Please note that this is only an estimate – your exact requirements depend on your menu, and your menu depends on your research – so carry out those steps first) : –

Step 5 : Implement your marketing strategy

Packaging and branding is one key way to set yourself apart from your competition in the healthy food and snack business space. In this space, your brand identity plays a crucial role in communicating your businesses healthy values, especially as your customers cannot usually try before buying your products. Your package design, package copy, business name, logo and cards, etc need to be visually appealing enough to convey the idea of healthy tasty food to your customers.

The Nigerian market is friendly to new products or new ways of presenting existing products therefore when marketing, both traditional and modern advertising methods need to be explored. Traditional advertising methods include word-of-mouth, colourful flyers and brochures listing recipes, delivery channels and occasional promotional offers. Don’t neglect strong signage and branding for your shop, kiosk or cart.

Some local businesses that can help with affordable branding and signage include:

Now that you have things covered on the traditional advertising front, you can explore more digital advertising methods such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, given its large audience. Upload pictures of your products alongside your posts or statuses and keep targeting potential customers through social media engagement. You can hire social-media influencers if you have the means, to enable reach their large audience (your target demographic) in the shortest time possible.

Attending conferences, events, and volunteer gatherings can also be a great way to expose your new venture to new customers. These events could help you gain big corporate customers which could give your business a boost through corporate orders. Liaising with other businesses such as health and nutritional facilities is also a great step towards gaining recognition and ROI. 

In the early days of your business, you could turn your customers into promoters by offering them discounts in exchange for honest feedback. By doing so, you automatically turn your customers into your brand ambassadors.

Legal Considerations

Opening a healthy food and snack business company requires a business licence for selling food products, and you will need to register your business with the CAC to get one of such licenses. You can find out more about registering your business with the CAC on their website.

And let’s not forget the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which governs the sale of consumables. At the point where you start to produce food products on a large scale, you will be required to apply for a NAFDAC license which will mean a NAFDAC number on each individual item you produce. You will be able to find out how to go about this here, and here

You will also need to apply for a tax identification number, business banking account and liability insurance. 

The healthy food and snack business in Nigeria is a lucrative venture which does not require large funds to start. As long as your location is right, and you have done your homework properly, it is not unrealistic to expect to start getting a good ROI within the first 6 months. If you have been thinking about doing this, but haven’t just been able to get a plan together, this is the time to take action.


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