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Michael Aguzie, CEO of Harbin's Food

Michael Aguzie, CEO of Nigerian chips and snack food company Harbin’s Food, is looking to penetrate the flavoured potato chip market in Nigeria, which mostly consists of imports.

Despite the fact that the company’s locally produced chips are almost half the price of the international brands on the market, getting Nigerians to trust local brands is a challenge.

“We as Nigerians always believe that foreign brands are better than locally made brands… which poses a challenge to us,” Aguzie told How we made it in Africa.

With the cost of importing international products increasing their prices, locally produced products are more affordable to Africans, said Aguzie.

“I am trying to encourage Nigerians to be able to snack on something locally made, that has almost an international kind of taste,” explained Aguzie.

He added that the company sees developing the trust of Nigerians as a long-term goal, and believes that in order to conquer the market, Harbin’s Foods first has to win over Lagos.

“If you can conquer Lagos with your brand or with your product, I’m 100% sure that you can then conquer the whole of Nigeria.”

Harbin’s Food is still new to the Nigerian market, having only imported its chip-making machine from China in 2012. Aguzie believes he has not yet captured even 10% of the Lagos market. However, with his chip-making machine capable of producing 25kgs of chips per hour, Aguzie believes his company is positioned to grow as more and more Nigerians start to trust in his brand.

The company has also found a partner to launch a burger restaurant, where the same machine can be used to make French fries.

Conflict in the north a potential challenge

According to Aguzie, the best potatoes in Nigeria come from the north of the country. However, the conflict in the region, catalysed by a number of bombings and attacks by Islamic militant group Boko Haram, poses a potential threat to the company’s supply of produce.

“We don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but for now we still get our produce anytime we want [from the north].”

Although Aguzie said his business has not been affected by the violence (and highlights that it is still possible to do business in the area), he is preparing a back-up plan just in case: he has been talking to farmers in the southwest about producing potatoes.

“From my understanding, the soil in the north is the best for potatoes… [but] I want our farmers in the southwest to be able to produce the same potato.”

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