Malcolm Riley Gourmet Foods Entrepreneur

To see your product flying off the shelves at Selfridges Food Hall is a dream-come-true for any gourmet food maker. Malcolm Riley has achieved it with his very first product, thanks to a little-known African superfruit and a touch of serendipity.

In 2007, Riley – the son of an English father and a half-African, half-Indian mother – visited his family in his native Zambia. With plans in place to start his own food business, he was looking out for ideas for new and unusual products. By chance, he met the Mthanjara Women’s Co-operative, a group of women working to combat hunger and support AIDS orphans in the east of the country. As well as growing crops such as maize and ground nuts, the women also made food from wild fruits.  .

One of their favourites was a traditional jam made from the highly nutritious fruit of the baobab, a tree that grows in vast numbers across Southern Africa.

‘As soon as I tasted it, I knew I had my first product,’ says Riley. ‘This jam was sensational and quite different to anything on the market in the Europe. It had a creamy smooth texture like honey and tasted of apricots, lemon and lime. I was hooked.’

Armed with the recipe, Riley returned to Devon and set to work, naming his company Yozuna, which means “It’s sweet!” in the local Zambian language. He took a sample from his first batch of jam to Selfridges and their savvy buyers immediately signed it up in an exclusive launch deal. . It has been so successful that Riley has added three new products to his line-up: baobab spreads made with chocolate and banana, and baobab lemonade, all of which will carry the FAIRTRADE mark.

The great thing about baobab, according to Riley, is that not only is it delicious and nutritious – containing high levels of Vitamin C, calcium and iron  – but it also helps to improve the lives of rural people in Southern Africa.

‘In remote areas, families often survive on less than $100 a year. They can’t afford seeds and tools for farming, but to harvest baobab costs them nothing and earns vital income for food, healthcare and education. The more baobab we eat in the UK and Europe, the more people in Africa stand to benefit,’ says Riley.

Riley works closely with PhytoTrade Africa – the organization representing the natural products industry in Southern Africa – to ensure that the baobab in his products comes from ethical and sustainable sources. And, in recognition of the recipe that launched his business, he has committed to return a portion of his profits to the Mthanjara Women’s Cooperative to support their extraordinary work.

It is a cause close to Riley’s heart. Thirteen years ago he arrived in the UK from Zambia with a suitcase a few pounds in his pocket  and a dream to start his company.

Riley says he also owes a debt of gratitude to the nutritionist and food writer Wendy E. Cook – former wife of comedian Peter Cook – whom he met while working as manager at his local farm shop in Devon. Riley had moved down from London to start a new life with his fiancée Sophie and explore his growing passion for natural and organic food. He and Cook struck up a rapport through their shared interest in food .

Riley showed her some recipes he had written and Cook was so impressed that she asked to use one in a forthcoming cookbook.

‘That was the confidence boost that convinced me my future lay in food,’ says Riley. ‘Ultimately it led to me setting up Yozuna, so I have a lot to thank Wendy and the women of Mthanjara for!’

‘After all, it was their recipe that helped me launch my business,’ he says.

For further information contact:

Malcolm Riley, Yozuna +44 7812 750047 malcolm@yozuna.com

More about Yozuna: www.yozuna.com

More about PhytoTrade Africa: www.phytotradeafrica.com