Hibiscus drinks from Africa made in Montreal

Montreal is a multicultural city and celebrates diversity in many aspects. Diversity can take the form of innovations, curiosity and sustainability. When it comes to the food industry, the city has known a real boom in innovations over the past years. A new drink is now entering the market for non-alcoholic beverages: Hibisko.

African flavors, made in Montreal

Hikmath is a dynamic, ambitious Montrealer who decided to become an entrepreneur and make other Montrealers discover her favourite drink, coming directly from her home country, Benin (West Africa).

Hibisko comes from the world “hibiscus”, a red flower that is emblematic of tropical destinations, but that can also be used in infusions. Hibiscus tea has been consumed in many parts of the world for ages – in Egypt it is called Karkade, in the Caribbean it is agua de Jamaica, and in West Africa, it is called Bissap and it is a traditional drink appreciated for its sweet and sour taste and deep red color.

I had never thought of entrepreneurship before. My parents wanted me to be a doctor.

After growing up in Africa (Cote d’Ivoire and Benin), and studying in France, Hikmath came to Montreal for a fresh start: she began her studies at HEC in 2012 and after graduating, started working in IT. All along the way, she brewed bissap at home, keeping her habits from childhood.

An unquenchable thirst for new products

As Hikmath experienced life in a corporate world, the idea of making a business out of her hobby kept growing in her mind and she saw a fit with the market:

Montrealers love testing new drinks and new products that are healthy and locally made.

Given the current trend of kombucha (cf. Mannanova) and cold-pressed juices (cf. LOOP juices), such products definitely fit with consumers’ expectations and the growing demand for attractive and tasteful non-alcoholic products that are not produced and bottles thousands of miles away.

Hibisko offers three types of flavours: El Classico (a blend of hibiscus and mint infusion), Phoenix (a blend of red and white hibiscus with maple syrup, lemon an cinnamon) and Senshi (a mix of hibiscus, ginger and baobab extract)

Home-made drinks. Home-made everything!

Yes, it is that simple: during the summer of 2018, Hikmath officially quit her job and started being a full-time entrepreneur. She went through a training in Hygiene and food safety and got a license from MAPAQ and she was officially allowed to start making and selling her product. All items are 100% home-made: the hibiscus is brewed, bottled, labelled, straight from Hikmath’s kitchen.

Selling the products online and at special events is a first step. The packaging is also subject to improvement and there is a lot to be done in sourcing raw materials. But I need to feel at ease with my product, take one step after the other, and be open to advice and positive criticism.”

For now you can buy Hibisko drinks online and follow the journey on social media.

When innovation meets diversity: African dishes made in Montreal

Innovation has a lot to do with diversity. Today, we are presenting an exotic, promising startup: Sagafrika, by Sandra Muaka, a Montreal-based frozen African dishes maker. Between working with food industry giants and entrepreneurship, Sandra made her choice.

We met with Sandra Muaka from Sagafrikaat Montreal Inc. “Grand Messe” last month (read our full article on that great event). Here is the story of her new venture, started in May 2017 with her sister Aicha, and her own fascinating story, from Africa to cold Canada.

From Healthcare to Food Transformation

sandra muaka

Sandra was training to become a doctor in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) when she got the opportunity to continue her studies in Canada. She flew halfway through the world and decided to study Food Science and Technology as it had a health-oriented component. With a Bachelor from Laval University, she could start building her experience in Food Quality Assurance. For 10 years, Sandra worked in Quebec and Alberta in various food companies such as Old Dutch Foods, Kraft Foods, Olymel Red Deer, and O Sole Mio

She definitely drove her entrepreneurial inspiration from her last job experience, more focused on ready-to-eat meals. As an immigrant, she knew the challenges that diaspora face when living abroad. She decided to create Sagafrika to offer a convenient, tasty, and accessible alternative to cooking African dishes. Offering frozen food products to African populations in Quebec was a new innovative way of answering a real need.

Quality Assurance is critical in the food industry. I wanted to use my expertise in that area to offer an innovative product.

From food scientist to entrepreneur

 

To fine-tune her concept, Sandra organised focus groups and tastings. Today, products are specifically targeted towards immigrants living in Montreal – students and families.

sauches.pngSagafrika offers six recipes all inspired by her home country – DR Congo. Saka saka is the most famous one: a sauce made out of cassava leaves. Among other choices: a sauce with fish and sorrel, another with eru leaves and smoked fish or a more traditional spinach sauce.

Sandra currently cooks her products herself by renting a spot in an industrial kitchen, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Cuisine des pays d’en haut.

Frozen dishes bring a real security when launching a food startup: they can be sold within a year.

Sagafrika is focused on expanding its product line to the rest of African dishes and towards offering spiced side dishes like cassava or sweet potato fries.

For now you can order these delicious dishes here.