AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION

Ready-to-drink porridge now available in the supermarket

The ready-to-drink beverage has many health benefits and costs between Sh60 and Sh1,800, depending on the quantity

In Summary

• An entrepreneur has mechanised porridge production to spare consumers cooking process

• Citrine mũkiyo porridge is Kebs-approved and available in quantities of between 500ml and 20 litres

An entrepreneur has mechanised porridge production to spare consumers cooking process. Citrine mũkiyu porridge is Kebs-approved and available in quantities of between 500ml and 20 litres.

July is the peak of the cold season in Kenya, and the weatherman advised people to keep warm.

This requires one to not only dress warm but to either eat or drink a hot meal or beverage. A cup of hot porridge may come in handy, but preparing porridge can be time-consuming.

 

Not to worry because thanks to entrepreneur Joseph Irumbi, you can now buy ready-to-drink porridge at your nearest supermarket or order and have it delivered at your doorstep.

 
 
 

His company, Citrine Technologies Limited, packages porridge in a plastic bottle and you can drink it cold or warm, saving you the time and fuel of having to cook it or dealing with the lumps or cleaning the sufuria. It is available in some supermarkets in Nairobi.

Traditional fermented porridge was a delicacy among the old folks, and this could be attributed to the process involved in preparing the porridge. But this has since changed and it is now common to many homes.

Irumbi says the traditional citrine mũkiyo porridge is nutritious, especially for nursing mothers, young children and people with low immunity.

He says the mũkiyo porridge has been certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards as fit for human consumption, and they are keen on ensuring safety and quality of the product to meet consumer needs.

Citrine has installed state-of-the-art processing equipment in a processing line, he says.

“Our production process is carried out by skilled staff in a sterile environment on premises that have been inspected and certified by the County’s Department of Public Health,” Irumbi says. 

“All these measures have enabled us to realise a hygienic porridge that is tested during the production phase and after the production for compliance and nutritional value.” 

 
 
 
The Citrine Mukiyo porridge produced at the plant in Kahawa Sukari. July 4, 2020. Photo/Jack Owuor
The Citrine Mukiyo porridge produced at the plant in Kahawa Sukari. July 4, 2020. Photo/Jack Owuor

LONG-TERM INVESTMENT 

The porridge comes in 500ml (the convenience pack), 5 litres (family pack) and 20 litres (economy pack).

The 500ml sells at Sh60-85, the 5-litre container at Sh500-700, while the 20-litre one sells at Sh1,500-1,800. The prices vary with the different flavours. 

 
 

The company is using riders to deliver the product and distributors to reach more consumers, especially in this cold season and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Distributors buy the small one at Sh45 and sell at Sh60, the fortified at Sh70 and sell at Sh85-Sh90, and the 5-litre container at Sh600 and sell at Sh700.

Irumbi, a retired chief finance officer from Kenyatta University, invested nearly Sh5 million in the business. It took eight months of back-and-forth tests from the Kenya Bureau of Standards before his company got the licence to start selling the product.

He says the traditional mũkiyo porridge has been a delicacy for ages among the Bantu, but it has since been introduced to other communities with the intra-communal interactions.

“For years, the porridge has been produced in a tiring and time-consuming process of pounding on maize using a pestle and mortar or grinding maize using stone and grinding stone,” he says.

But Citrine Technologies has mechanised the pounding process, producing porridge that comes in flavours of natural, ginger, pumpkin seeds and one with both pumpkin seeds and ginger.

They have the capacity to produce 4,000 litres of porridge a day, something that could not have been achieved with the manual processes.

“The product has a shelf-life of 21-days. Initially when we were using manual production, we were only able to achieve a two-to-three days' shelf life, but this changed with the adoption of technological innovation,” Irumbi says.

Citrine Technologies has adopted stringent product-monitoring measures. There is testing of the raw materials at source, in-process testing and testing of the final product.

These are done internally and through third-party testing labs to ascertain compliance. Therefore, brands of citrine mũkiyo porridge are manufactured to target specific nutritional needs of target consumers.

The company has worked with local and international food labs in the whole value chain of mũkiyo porridge's production to ensure safety to consumers.

Citrine Technologies Ltd Director Joseph Imumbi at the Citrine Mukiyo porridge production plant in Kahawa Sukari. July 4, 2020. Photo/Jack Owuor
Citrine Technologies Ltd Director Joseph Imumbi at the Citrine Mukiyo porridge production plant in Kahawa Sukari. July 4, 2020. Photo/Jack Owuor

EXTENSIVE RESEARCH

Luka Kariuki, head of quality assurance at the company, says, “We carried out extensive research and kept improving on different aspects of the product, such as the nutritional value, viscosity and shelf-life, to arrive at the product that has been certified by Kebs.” 

He says the porridge is a food for convenience and it is not only ready-to-drink but also a ready-to-go porridge.

"It is packaged hygienically, has no artificial preservatives and the recovery rate during the mechanised pounding is higher, hence more nutrients are incorporated in the end-product. Our porridge has a smooth texture with no lumps, and it has a long shelf-life compared to the traditionally produced mũkiyo,” he says.

Company director Ruth Irumbi says the citrine mũkiyo porridge is no longer the preserve of special events or populations since it can now be consumed by the entire family. It can be served as a weaning formula.

She says the porridge is prepared with ingredients including maize, sorghum, sugar and water. It comes in three brands: citrine ginger porridge, citrine pumpkin seeds porridge and citrine pumpkin seeds and ginger porridge.

“All our raw materials are organic and sourced from vetted farmers. Citrine mukiyo porridge is made with whole grains and organic fortifiers with naturally occurring essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals,” Ruth says.

She says the myth on porridge and weight gain is not true because citrine porridge is made from the whole grains of maize and sorghum, which are bursting with dietary fibre.

“Fibre will help dieters to stay feeling fuller for longer, reducing the urge to snack. The presence of natural fibres in citrine porridge will help food transport along the whole digestive system,” she says.

In addition, citrine porridge is fermented, and fermentation helps to pre-digest food, which means it is often easier to digest in the stomach.

The Citrine Mukiyo porridge produced at the plant in Kahawa Sukari. July 4, 2020. Photo/Jack Owuor
The Citrine Mukiyo porridge produced at the plant in Kahawa Sukari. July 4, 2020. Photo/Jack Owuor

HIGHLY NUTRITIOUS

Vitamins A, B, C and K also increase during fermentation, giving the consumer maximum benefit from small portions. Other by-products of fermentation help to reduce inflammation and have positive metabolic effects on the body.

Eating fermented food regularly has been shown to alter gut bacteria and change how the body harvests energy, which in turn supports weight loss.

“Many chronic inflammatory disorders have been linked to highly processed diets, which change gut bacteria growth and species dominance,” Ruth says.

“Fermented food will also help stop or reduce stomach troubles, such as gas, bloating, cramps and irritable bowel syndrome.”

She says people are used to taking ginger in tea and roasting pumpkin seeds, and now mũkiyo porridge has provided a liquid base for the two.

Ginger is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for the body and brain. It may protect against Alzheimer’s. It helps in digestion, reduces nausea and helps fight flu and common cold.

It also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, such as reducing muscle pain, soreness and arthritis. It is known to help with blood sugar, weight loss, motion sickness, alcohol hangover and loss of appetite.  

Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants and fibre, a combination that has benefits for both the heart and liver.

“The seeds are packed full of valuable nutrients. They provide you with a substantial quantity of healthy fats, magnesium and zinc, which improve heart health and may help protect against cancers such as prostate,” Ruth says.

She says the porridge is processed with the whole family in mind and is particularly good for breastfeeding mothers, weaning babies and developing children.

The fortified brands are particularly good for teens, elderly people, people with mild malnutrition, people doing heavy work, people on liquid food diets and energy drinks consumers.

Edited by T Jalio