Kampala Road/Parliament Ave, Kampala, Uganda.While pedestrians go about their daily business, the exhaust fumes of matatus and boda-bodas fill the air. Nothing new there. But a new aroma has recently been added to the mix. Out of the recently opened bakery-café BBROOD – Dutch for ‘bread’ – wafts the smell of fresh bread, straight from the oven.
The energetic, blue-eyed Renee (28) stems from a family of bread makers. Together with her father Johan and his business partner Rin van de Molen, she started three BBROOD-branches in the Netherlands, before deciding that her next challenge would take her beyond the Dutch borders. Through her mother, who runs the NGO Bake for Life in Uganda, Renee got to know the East African country, and saw a niche-market for rustic, fresh bread.
Jack Luitjes, who works as a baker at BBROOD, explains: “The local bread is white, very dry, and sweet. The preservatives inside the bread mean it will last for three weeks. As a baker, I find that almost shocking.” Jack guarantees that BBROOD’s bread, pastries and croissants are fresh, with real dairy butter and natural ingredients. Customers can witness the whole process of the bread making.
Paying the price for fresh bread
Whereas the local bread costs 2,800 shilling (0.80 euros), a multi-grain loaf at BBROOD goes for 5,000 shilling (1.40 euros). In Uganda, currently plagued by inflation and living costs, this means that only expats and well-to-do-Ugandans can afford the Dutch bread. They are looking for a place that serves quality food, and/or has an international feel to it. These days, showing off Ugandan style means sitting at BBROOD wearing shiny new shoes, with your fancy smart phone on display, while you chew on rustic bread.
“I can tell from the way the bread and baguettes are presented. The way they are sitting there, so structured and precise, so symmetric! For me that is very Dutch,” says Patrick Tumwine, executive producer at a media firm in Kampala. Patrick comes to BBROOD because he likes “the clean and stylish look”, “the orange paint”, and “the small seeds on the bread. They are addictive.”
Setting up a business in Uganda hasn’t always been easy for the Dutch team. Things they had to learn included how to deal with ‘ebbanja’, or buying goods on credit. “In Uganda, the customer is king,” says Marjon Gibcus, who co-manages the BBROOD-branch in Kampala. “So our employers could not resist the demands of regular customers to buy their bread on credit. We realised, when you’re in Uganda, some things have to go the Ugandan way. So yes, ‘ebbanja’ is part of our customer care now.”
“Another challenge is getting the basic foundations of your business right in a foreign context,” adds Renee de Pater. “Our partnership with the local bakery HotLoaf proved indispensable, since we could rely on their local knowledge and experience.”
BBROOD participates in the Private Sector Investment programme (PSI) of the Dutch government. The programme helps aspiring Dutch entrepreneurs with setting up a business in a foreign country, on the condition that a local partner has a 50 percent share and the business will invest in knowledge exchange.