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Mary Karoki: How Onja Goods Founder is Taking over the Food Market with Gluten-free Products

Mary Karoki
Onja Foods founder Mary Karoki PHOTO/Nation

Mary Karoki is the founder of Onja Foods, an agri-processing food business that provides alternative foods solutions such as gluten-free flours and treats.

Gluten is a protein naturally found in some grains including wheat, barley and rye. It acts like a binder, holding food together and adding a “stretchy” quality.

Some people who don’t have celiac disease still seem to feel sick after eating foods that contain gluten.

Here is Faith’s story as told by EAFeed.

Faith established Onja Foods in 2018 after an interaction with a mother who had an autistic son and she would ask for gluten-free products.

She later did her research and later added cassava flour into the list of products that she was selling in her grocery shop.

Faith also enrolled at the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) where she learnt more about production of gluten-free flour.

“My customer interactions also grew and I saw the need to provide gluten-free products like pastries. At first, we thought we just needed to produce and sell to customers, then we realised people are not informed on how to also use the flours thus we needed to invest more on awareness,” she said.

After completing her studies, Faith resumed production and introduced new products, selling to over 100 clients monthly.

Mary Karoki
Mary Karoki at her shop PHOTO/Nation

Onja Foods products are also sold at select stores in Nairobi and exhibitions, including the farmers market at Shamba Cafe Loresho.

“We aggregate, process and distribute gluten-free products mostly of cassava flour, sweet potato, chickpie and composite flour, countrywide,” Faith said in an interview with Nation.

Onja Foods introduced pastries two years after setting up the business, but Faith says they are planning on expanding more.

“We introduced pastries in 2021 after realising that the consumer needed more of the finished products. It has been the journey of the product development since it has been a self-taught process,” she said.

They make gluten-free cookies, cupcakes, banana bread, cakes and waffles which are baked on order.

While they produce at KIRDI, Onja Foods gets raw materials from an aggregator who sources them from smallholder farmers.

“We add value to these crops then produce gluten-free flours and gluten-free composite flour on demand,” Faith said.

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