Ghanaian food is having a moment. It’s been slowly gaining traction in the UK, with one of the earliest pushers being Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Starting out as supper clubs, the brand recently announced a new residency in London Fields at The Institute of Light.
West African food got a boost last year when Ikoyi opened in St James. Now, it’s reached supermarket shelves.
Unilever has teamed up with “pop-up prodigy” Zoe Adjonyoh, founder of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, to create the Red Red range: vegan, gluten-free snack pots inspired by popular Ghanaian dishes.
This inspiration comes from bean stews, a traditional fave served with fried plantains and normally called ‘red-red’ due to the colour imparted by red palm oil and red pepper.
The launch is part of a longer-term strategy for Unilever. Its CEO, Paul Polman, has said the company is seeking to undertake greater entrepreneurial activity by listing products that tap into buoyant consumer trends. The focus will be on natural, organic, free-from, authentic products, which Polman noted are accelerating in the market.
Red Red is certainly ticking those boxes, drawing on the popularity of vegan foods, the demand for free-from and the growing interest in regional cuisine.
Spicing it up
There are three pots in the range, all labelled ‘super stews’ and stocked in Whole Foods. Plenty of turmeric is being scattered around, both in the red beans with sweet potato, cayenne and garlic as well as the okra and lentils with chilli and ginger. Those sick of seeing the golden spice can slurp on black eye beans and tomato with a blend of ginger and chilli. All are billed as being hot or spicy for a lunchtime kick.
The range is also doing social good. For every Red Red pot bought, Unilever will donate 12p to Farm Africa, an international development charity, which reduces poverty by helping farmers in eastern Africa to grow more, sell more and sell for more.
Borrowing from start-up style
Unilever’s innovation machine has been undergoing changes too. It has separated its local and global innovation arms to allow the local teams to be more agile and responsive to demands.
Meanwhile, the global arm can focus on rolling out larger, game-changing innovations. The group also wants to increase collaborations with start-ups.
Unilever and other big corporations are struggling with changing consumer habits that support the rise of independent upstart brands at the expense of traditional names. As a result, we expect more collaborations like the Red Red range will be popping up in supermarkets aisles soon.