New import company Grassfields Trading goes for further expansion after debut year

"Potential customer base of 500-600 African retailers throughout Germany"

Manioc, Safou and Taro: The average consumer in Germany is not familiar with these foods, whereas for African retailers the products are very standard. Cedric Timo, who has been the managing director of import company Grassfields Trading for about one year, aims at this clientele. And the demand is astonishing: Due to an estimated number of 500 to 600 afro shops in Germany, the dedicated importer is in the process of expanding his service.

Cedric Timo is the managing director at the helm of the import company

The native of Cameroon moved to Germany in 2006 as part of his studies (chemical engineering), but he never lost the love for the products from his homeland. Finally, in 2018, the idea arose to found a company of its own and to import all foodstuffs -including fruit and vegetable specialties- directly from Cameroon. "So far our assortment only covers products from Cameroon. But we are planning an extension of the range and want to quickly take in merchandise from Togo, Mali and the Congo."

Plums and bush mangoes
The fresh product range of the new company contains both year-round products - such as dried goods - and seasonal products. For example, Safou plums are available between May and November. Although they are called plums, they are by no means comparable to European varieties, explains Timo. "Because the Safou contains a lot of oil and tastes best fried or cooked. They are also partly sold in the deep-frozen area, but that's what we're looking for."

Another example of the fruit offer is the bush mangoes: "They are much smaller than Kent mangoes and other conventional varieties and are more like a nectarine or apricot. We only import the kernels (dried). They vary in price according to season and serve as the basis for sauces. They are called Ogbono."

Taro (left) and Safou are just two examples of the company's wide range of products

Swedes, but not quite
Another specialty from Grassfields Trading's broad range of products is root vegetables, such as cassava. This root can be compared purely in terms of the use of the best with the German potato, because you eat them primarily as a basic product to various dishes. "This also applies to Taro, a raw material that is flown in as required every three weeks. Most of our regular range is brought here by ship."

Simultaneously with the social trend, Timo also markets sweet potatoes, although these varieties are also difficult to compare to the conventional tubers from the USA and southern Europe. "They are very natural and therefore have no uniform fruit size. However, the water content of these products is also significantly lower."

Broad network as a trademark
Of the large suppliers rather dispense with a partnership with smallholders, this cooperation is part of the well-thought-out corporate strategy. Cooperation with large producers' cooperatives is therefore out of the question, confirms Timo. "In order to avoid delivery bottlenecks, we rely on a broad network of suppliers. Because the more growers we supply, the less likely it will be to have supply gaps during the season."

Two African specialties: cassava (left) and bobolo or bâton de manioc

So much opportunities
After the harvest, the goods are prepared and packed directly on site, after which they are either transported by ship or plane to Germany. Once arrived in Germany, it is negotiated as quickly as possible to Afroshops and foreign retail stores in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. "We are about to open an online shop for end customers and at the same time deal with customer acquisition, so that we can cover the whole of Germany at the end of this year. Because of our proximity to Belgium and France, we also want to build a network in this area."

According to sources and own research, the current number of potential buyers to 500 to 600 customers. "In the beginning, my goal was simply to market the goods from Cameroonian small farmers right here in Germany. Slowly but surely we have to find out fortunately that we still have so very many opportunities."

For more information:
Grassfields Trading
GF: Cedric Timo 
Hoyerstrasse 24 
D 88250 Weingarten
Phone: +49 176 57925344

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