Dr. Jessica Nanyunja is a nutritionist. She obtained her bachelors degree in human nutrition and dietetics from Kyambogo University, in Kampala. Upon completion, she enrolled for a masters degree in Ghent University in Belgium, and later on did a PHD in Bioscience engineering, majoring in food safety and qualitative management systems. Her education truly defines her passion for nutrition.
Dr. Jessica is the founder and CEO of Harmony Nutri-foods Limited. The company produces an assortment of nutritional foods and beverages, ranging from: banana juice, mineral water, bee honey, peanut butter, baby porridge, roasted pumpkin seeds, bitter tomatoes, silver fish and calcium powder, among others. All the products are purely organic and healthy. They are highly recommended for babies, expectant and lactating mothers, as well as the elderly. Diabetic, hypertensive and patients with complicated ailments can also benefit from the range of products. Dr. Jessica’s journey is an interesting one. During her senior six vacation, she worked with Swissgard, a company that deals with nutritional products.
While as student at Kyambogo University, she started packing and selling honey. The motivation came from a visit she made to her mother who worked in the West Nile district of Arua. When she noticed the abundance of honey, she decided to add value to it by packing, sealing and branding them. She personally marketed and distributed the honey to homes and offices. She explained how she started with ten liters of honey and within a month, she was processing two hundred liters. Her small business was interrupted because of her trip to Europe to pursue her masters degree.
The people with whom she worked did not have the zeal and knowledge of how to explain to clients the benefits of their products and the nutritional benefits. For these reasons, the business could not sustain itself. Interestingly, every time Dr. Jessica would return for holidays in Kampala, the business would pick up. Nevertheless, she kept on restarting the business every time she was for recess.
Today, Dr. Jessica directly employs seventy-four workers in her factory. She explained that their operations also have a ripple spill over because 60% of their raw materials are got from out growers, thereby improving livelihoods of many people in the communities.
To make Harmony Nutri-foods Limited a reality, in 2012, Dr. Jessica procured a loan of seventy thousand euros with an interest rate of 7% from Founding Angel Investment Group Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs, in Europe. Four years later, the money was reimbursed. She purchased machinery, which they used for large scale production, the success of which came from the production of banana juice, which is now the company’s backbone.
The abundance of bananas in Uganda is almost unmatched, but Harmony Nutri has specialized in the specie musa, which is commonly used in brewing local beer tonto. The mature bunches are harvested from the farms and also purchased from local farmers. They are then put in rooms at controlled temperatures to ripen at 30°. The ripe bananas go through an extraction machine after peeling, and then undergo pasteurization at high temperatures of 95°.
Dr. Jessica explains that no additives whatsoever are added to the banana extract because it contains all the necessary nutrients except for some water to dilute the thick juice. The juice is bottled while still hot then left to cool at room temperature. It has a shelf life of three months.
The other popular product is the mineral water, which is got from a borehole, and goes through a process flow as required by the National bureau of standards. A unique addition is the flavor added by the process it undergoes through from the pots, hence its name pot water. When consumed, the feeling derived is as similar as consuming water from the traditional pot. Both of these products are packed in 500ml plastic bottles ready to consume.
Today, for Dr. Jessica to stay relevant in this business, her persistence and determination has proven that being focused and ambitious is rewarding.
By R.N. Ayago
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