Another Ugandan excursion was to SESACO. This is a company that makes the majority of its products from soybeans and focuses on providing healthy substitute for meat products. Charles, the founder and owner of SESACO, talked to us for a while about he started his business. He started out selling roasted g-nuts (groundnuts or peanuts) to his coworkers when he was a casual worker. Eventually he expanded his business but unfortunately he was too trusting and his employees stole his recipes and left the company. Charles became a driver and eventually, after running into former customers who told him the quality of products was falling and asked him to come back to his old job, reopened his company. He started up again by borrowing from small lenders and eventually tapped into microfinance. Things kept going good for him and he now is working to expand his business, not just to subsist. SESACO is doing well in Uganda now and there is actually a store in Dallas, Texas where his products can be purchased.
SESACO does not currently have contracts with local soybean producers. Instead local farmers grow for subsistence and he buys their surplus from them. He said that he respects daily changes in market prices and is working on plans for investment and contracts in the future. He hopes to enable farmers to produce more efficiently as well as permitting them to supply him with increased quantities as his enterprise grows.
After speaking with Charles we toured the factory and were given some samples. Everything was pretty delicious. We tried soymilk, brown butter (peanut, soybean and sim sim butter), soyacup (an alternative to coffee that is produced from soybeans with a similar taste – more like a chai latte once it has sugar and milk in it – but without caffeine), and soy meat (dried tofu). Everything we tried was delicious and I really enjoyed the tour. The machines used for processing were all fairly small and a good deal of the labeling and packaging was done by hand which was impressive. He talked about plans to upgrade machines to improve and increase production but was also able to show us some that were pretty new. The newer ones included the brown butter machine and a milk-pasteurizing machine. We got to see how the brown butter machine worked and I wanted to dive into the huge tub of butter underneath it. Afterwards we bought some treats to take with us and went on our way. We pitched some ideas to Charles for future products and he was very open to our ideas. Who knows, maybe we will get some joint ventures started up soon.