Farming households in Rwanda have been enjoying high-iron beans since 2012 when this biofortified crop was first officially released in the country. These rural-based households have been leading the adoption of iron beans across Rwanda, impressed by the crop’s nutritional and agronomic qualities. Now, urban consumers can taste the benefits of iron beans, too, thanks to a product newly arrived on supermarket shelves.
Farm Fresh pre-cooked high-iron beans are the first of their kind in Rwanda. All consumers have to do is heat them for a few minutes on the stove or in the microwave and they are ready to eat. They represent a convenience that is particularly sought after by urban consumers.
“As you may know, beans take a long time to cook,” notes Christian Heremans, the Managing Director of Farm Fresh Food Company Ltd., which produces the ready-to-eat beans. “People today, especially working class people, don’t have much time to spare. Precooked beans allow them to save time, not to mention other resources like water and power.”
Launched just three months ago in only a couple of supermarkets in Kigali, Farm Fresh pre-cooked beans are now available in 30 retail outlets and growing. That impressive growth has not surprised Heremans. “Before we began operations, we conducted market studies, which all indicated that most people would be willing to pay a premium for biofortified high-iron beans,” he says. “It reflected the general popularity of these beans among Rwandan farmers and consumers.”
Currently, Farm Fresh produces 400 packs daily of pre-cooked beans, which include both iron beans and mixed beans. At 1,500 Rwandan francs each (US $2), the iron bean packs are 200 francs pricier than the mixed beans, but outsell the latter two-to-one.
Heremans sees huge potential ahead for Farm Fresh. “We currently employ eight people, but at this rate of growth we should be able to employ 25 people and produce up to five times more within a year,” he predicts. “Once we have expanded production, we have plans to export the precooked beans to neighboring countries where beans are also popular, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Kenya.”