When the Tessema family started their business making injera – a staple in Ethiopia, their target market was residents who lived near the factory, but 15 years later the bakery has a growing market of clients abroad.
Mama fresh specializes in packaging various Ethiopian dishes, including chicken sauce and spices, but the Injera remains one of its fastest moving products.
Injera is a fermented spongy bread made from teff, a cereal that looks like wheat and has a sour taste. It is baked on a clay plate and is largely consumed in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
So at the beginning, it was 95 percent for diaspora. Nowadays we are reaching 20 percent for the international market and 80 percent for the diaspora.
Teff is even being referred to as a ‘superfood’ for its nutritional values and is in high demand in health-food shops and stores in the west.
The founder and general manager at Mama Fresh, Hailu Tessema, said from 2014 until now they have been looking for the international business.
“So at the beginning, it was 95 percent for diaspora. Nowadays we are reaching 20 percent for the international market and 80 percent for the diaspora,” he said.
Injera has a rich, cultural heritage and is often served with vegetables or meat dishes topped with goat cheese.
The bakery supplies major hotel chains in the country, including the Hinton and Sheraton hotels.
“I think the fact that injera is becoming a global food is a good thing. The reason is, for one it promotes the country positively and secondly, small-scale farmers are going to benefit a lot in terms of employment,” Addis resident, Man Fikreselam Kassahun said.
Mama Fresh produces 6,000 injera pieces per day for export to various countries including the United States, Sweden and Norway.
The company employs about 100 workers at its factory to meet demand for its products. About 2,000 pieces of injera are also sold locally every day.
Last year, the shop made about 1.5 million U.S. dollars in profits, this year they are looking to increase that to 2 million dollars.
“We are working manually, so when we can get automatic machine we shall make 20 to 30,000 Injera. But our problem is to mechanize it, modern system of baking injera. We need the machine for the future to increase its capacity, the machine is important for us,” said Tessema.
In 2015 the company was recognized by the government as the country’s leading micro and small enterprise exporter.