Renee Chuks, a trained chef, started experimenting with making pasta from cassava in her Lagos kitchen during a nationwide lockdown in Nigeria in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
She uses local crops like cassava and plantain to produce artisan herb-infused pasta, which she now sells through her company, Aldente Africa, which was established two years ago.
Aldente Africa is one of the first companies to manufacture gluten-free pasta in Nigeria, she says. The country is one of the world’s largest producers of cassava, a root vegetable rich in minerals and vitamin C, and Chuks believes Africa should make more use of its local crops to help improve food security on the continent.
“We looked within to love the type of produce we have and eat every day. Cassava is one of our major major products…so we thought if we could get good success with cassava, everything else would follow,” Chuks told Reuters from his company’s base in Lagos.
She also uses plantain and fonio, a small grain grown in West Africa, which she infuses with local herbs and vegetables, giving some of her pasta a green or pink hue.
Its products follow a worldwide trend towards plant-based foods. Complete with sleek packaging and retailing at US$2-5 per package of pasta, they are aimed at a relatively affluent consumer for now.
Wheat-based pasta is a staple in Nigeria and Chuks sees plenty of room for market growth in its alternative products, which it sells online and in health stores. His company also produces herbal alcoholic wines from hibiscus and herbs for cooking.