[Interview] Claudia Castellanos, CEO, Black Mamba, Eswatini
Claudia Castellanos is the Co-Founder and CEO of Black Mamba, an Eswatini-based brand that manufactures and distributes specialty food products such as chilli sauces, pestos, chutneys and jams among others.
She will be speaking at the Future Foods Conference on how to build a successful brand based on environmental and social values.
Introduce Black Mamba
Black Mamba is an ethical brand from Eswatini (Southern Africa) that manufactures Specialty foods that are good for you, good for the planet, and good for the rural communities of Eswatini.
Our range includes chilli sauces, pestos, chutneys and jams, made with organically grown ingredients and no added nonsense. Black Mamba sources its fresh, organic produce through Guba, a local permaculture NGO.
Guba trains and collaborates with 50 smallholder farmers who grow fresh organic herbs & chillies for Black Mamba's products. The direct positive impact of this partnership reaches over 1,000 individuals in Eswatini.
Black Mamba has won several Great Taste Awards in the UK for their chilli sauces, and we currently export our range to countries such as the US, the UK, Germany, Norway, Taiwan and South Africa.
What role is Black Mamba Chilli playing in growing the African food and beverage industry?
Although we are still rather small, we have built great expertise in exporting our African products around the world and we have a strong positioning in overseas markets. I think our main role is to showcase that a business model “Made in Africa” with an inclusive value chain and strong environmental ethos can indeed be successful and bring to the world high quality products.
What would you highlight as some of the outstanding issues in the food and beverage industry in Africa?
Even though we have made great progress in terms of the quality and reach of our products, there is a uneven development among countries – and this enforces the stigma of Africa being either an exporter of commodities only (when we have amazing Specialty Food brands) or of poor quality products that people are wary of.
From another perspective I think we are only starting to grasp the importance of having a strong ethical ethos for our businesses – the world needs more food rebels that are willing to change the landscape of food – how we grow our food, what we add in our foods, how we consume. The sooner we realise that the future of food lies in these radical changes, the better we will be positioned to compete in the international Arena and become a crucial player.
You are one of the speakers in the Future Foods Conference. How crucial is the Conference and why should people attend?
Africa IS the future of food! I believe we are destined to become the pantry of the world. An event such as the Future Foods Conference that gathers great speakers, shows insights and trends, and creates a platform for networking can only benefit our space as food stakeholders. The more we get to share, to see what is happening in other spheres, to understand market trends and our positioning, to meet each other, the better we will be prepared to play a leadership role in the post-pandemic food landscape that is starting to take shape.
As a speaker to the conference, what subjects will you be covering?
“How to build a successful brand based on environmental and social values (people and planet first)”
Why do they matter to the food and beverage industry in Africa?
Trends are showing that consumers, especially younger ones, are increasingly interested in buying from ethical businesses. With the amount of information available nowadays, having a strong social and environmental ethos is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense.
What is your company’s growth strategy for 2022 and beyond?
We are in the quest of chilli world domination! In order to achieve this, we are working on building a strong brand locally and overseas by telling our story to our target markets (chilliheads, ethical foodies and Africa lovers) and building distribution channels in the markets where we believe we have more possibilities to grow: these includes South Africa, the US, the UK, Scandinavia, Middle East and Taiwan. We are also focusing in building digital platforms and using digital processes wherever it is possible: even though the bulk of our sales still works on wholesale and brick and mortar platforms, we understand that trend might be reversed in the short and medium term and we are preparing already for this.
Is there anything you’d like to add that you feel strongly about related to the African food and beverage industry?
I am extremely confident that Africa is in right path to become a very important player in the F&B industry, we just need to play our cards right and embrace sustainability and regeneration. I am also very pleased to see more women that are becoming successful in this industry: a gender balanced industry will also become more successful and fair for all involved.