10 Female Food Businesses To Watch in 2019
We're eating and drinking our way to women's empowerment this year, and these 10 female food businesses are paving the way.
Reflecting the current zeitgeist, FOOD XX is a movement started by food designers Studio H that’s dedicated to empowering women in the food and drinks industry in South Africa. The most effective way to do this is to support female-owned companies.
From one-woman-shows to family businesses to major career U-turns, these are 10 of the female food and drinks brands we’re excited about right now. They make and create everything from vegan ice cream to agave spirits, and are not only creating beautiful, crave-able products but also creating jobs – most often for other women, too.
1. Yo Coco
When Sinenhlanhla Ndlela dropped dairy from her diet, she realised that meant giving up ice cream, her favourite dessert. The solution? She developed her own vegan ice cream, which she then launched as a female food business in 2016. Yo Coco is artisanal ice cream that uses as many locally sourced ingredients as possible to make up its delicious flavour combinations. If you’re in Joburg, it’s delivered straight to your door in packaging that’s environmentally friendly. Ndlela says that each flavour is designed according to a chakra and each scoop is served with love.
The Theonista mantra is ‘Follow Your Gut’, and that’s exactly what founder and brewmistress Meghan Werner did when she founded the craft beverage company. While their product range spans rooibos ginger beer and rooibos chai, Theonista is best known for its kombucha. When she moved to Cape Town from the US, Werner couldn’t find her fizzy, fermented fix anywhere, which is when she decided to make her own kombucha. Her experiments have led to a variety of flavours made in a microbrewery in Woodstock. Theonista’s first stockist was Lyndall Maunder, the owner of Clarke’s and Hail Pizza on Bree Street, and a fierce champion of fellow female food businesses.
Swaady Martin left a successful corporate job to follow her passion for the tea leaf. This journey led to the creation of her artisan African tea company Yswara, which celebrates the ritual and ceremony of tea making and tea drinking. Martin describes the process of making a new tea as 'creating a garden in a cup' and all of her ingredients are ethically sourced and grown on African soil. Yswara’s signature blends include African flavours such as buchu, kola nut and Penja pepper. And all of them can be enjoyed in the brand's gorgeous pastel-pink tea room, L’Atelier Yswara in Maboneng (pictured above).
4. Nude Fude
Sisters-in-law Natasha and Megan Robert are the KZN duo behind Nude Fude, a range of healthy baking premixes. Their philosophy is ‘no junk’ and all their recipes are sugar- and gluten-free.Their treats include cacao caramel crunchies and lemon poppyseed cake, and they are currently working on vegan cookie dough balls. Enough said.
5. Organic Kitchen Gardens
Through her business Organic Kitchen Gardens, landscape designer and organic gardener Joy Phala (pictured above left) designs edible gardens to cook from. A serious Masterchef /Top Chef groupie, Phala noticed that the abundance of fresh ingredients that the contestants get to use is often not readily available to the home cook. She began by growing her own edible garden, relying on knowledge passed down from her mom, grans and aunties, who’d grow food in the front and back yards of their homes. Today, she designs, builds and maintains stylised kitchen gardens for home cooks and urban foodies in Joburg.
Joburg’s Chocoloza was founded by Vicki Bain, an environmental and sustainability consultant turned chocolatier and pastry chef. She spent time working at artisanal chocolatiers in Belgium before returning home to open Chocoloza. Last year it was one of the first chocolatiers in South Africa to work with ruby chocolate when it made its debut in the country. These pink creations (pictured above) and more can be found at her shop and chocolate lounge at 44 Stanley in Johannesburg.
Masterchef SA winner, food writer and host of Girl Eat World, Kamini Pather has just made ordering in much healthier. FÜDY is her new food delivery service that’s predominantly plant-based. She designs the meals which she describes as chef-inspired and macro-nutrient weighted. Think basil pesto and pecorino zoodles (zucchini noodles) with fresh peas and toasted sunflower seeds. The food used is all sourced from local producers. FÜDY is currently available through Uber Eats in Cape Town.
8. Native Nosi
Mokgadi Mabela is a third-generation beekeeper and the founder of Native Nosi, a proudly local honey producer in an industry where much of our honey is imported. Native Nosi’s honey is raw, which means it’s unprocessed and organic; exactly what the bee made is what goes into the bottle. Mabela's favourite Native Nosi product is a blend of honey harvested from beehives in avo orchards and sunflower fields in Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. And her aspiration is to build the biggest female food beekeeping company in South Africa.
9. Sugarbird Gin
Nzeka Biyela is the co-founder of Sugarbird Gin, a Cape fynbos gin brand that launched in 2017. The lightly floral gin has notes of rooibos, honey bush, rose geranium and the Cape May flower, but the newcomer to the market has a mission that goes beyond great cocktails. With every bottle of Sugarbird Gin sold, the company contributes to programmes that empower entrepreneurs, with a focus on women and people of colour.
Leonista is South Africa’s first 100% Karoo agave spirit made in the traditional method used in Mexico to make agave spirits like mezcal. Sarah Kennan is the woman behind it all. After experimenting with making her own tequila, she realised she had to go to the source in Mexico to learn from master distillers there. After Kennan brought her skills back home, she found the perfect conditions in the Karoo to grow agave, and then created Leonista.
Of course ,there are many more female food and drinks businesses that we love and support, not to mention the many women at the helm of restaurants around the country (such as Ash Heeger, Karen Dudley and Jenny Ward) who would make for a whole other list. From Lotsha to Setsong Tea to Modern Traditions, follow the FOOD XX Instagram feed to see the women we’re cheering on.
You can also support women in food at the inaugural FOOD XX Symposium and Awards on 12 Feb in Cape Town. The awards are held in partnership with Eat Out.