Reflecting the current zeitgeist, Food XX is a movement started by food designers Studio H that are dedicated to empowering women in the food and drinks industry in South Africa. The most effective way to do this is to support women-owned companies. From one-woman-shows to family businesses to major career U-turns, these are 10 of the food and drinks brands we're excited about right now. From vegan ice cream to agave spirits, they're not only creating beautiful, crave-able products but are creating jobs, most often for other women.
When Sinenhlanhla Ndlela dropped dairy from her diet she soon realised that meant giving up ice cream, her favourite dessert. Instead, she developed her own vegan ice cream which launched a business in 2016. Yo Coco is artisanal ice cream that uses as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible to make up its delicious flavour combinations. If you’re in Joburg, it’s delivered straight to your door in packaging that’s environmentally-friendly. Sinenhlanhla says that each flavour is designed according to a chakra and each scoop is served with love.
The Theonista mantra is ‘Follow Your Gut’, and that’s exactly what founder and brewmistress Meghan Werner did when she founded the craft beverage company. While their product range spans rooibos ginger beer and rooibos chai, Theonista is best known for its kombucha. When she moved to Cape Town from the States, Meghan couldn’t find her fizzy, fermented fix anywhere, which is when she decided to make her own kombucha. Her experiments have led to a variety of flavours made in a microbrewery in Woodstock. Theonista’s first stockist was Lyndall Maunder, the owner of Clarke’s and Hail Pizza on Bree Street, and a fierce champion of fellow women-run food businesses.
Swaady Martin left a successful corporate job to follow her passion for the tea leaf. This journey led to the creation of her artisan African tea company Yswara, which celebrates the ritual and ceremony of tea making and drinking. Swaady describes the process of making a new tea as creating a garden in a cup and all of her ingredients are ethically sourced and grown on African soil. Yswara’s signature blends include African flavours like buchu, kola nut and Penja pepper, enjoyed best in their gorgeous pastel pink tea room, L’Atelier Yswara in Maboneng.
Sisters-in-law Natasha and Megan Robert are the KZN women behind Nude Fude, a range of healthy baking premixes. Their philosophy is ‘no junk’ and all their recipes, for treats like cacao caramel crunchies and lemon poppyseed cake, are sugar- and gluten-free. They’re currently working on vegan cookie dough balls. Enough said.
Through her business Organic Kitchen Gardens, landscape designer and organic gardener Joy Phala designs edible gardens to cook from. A serious Masterchef/Top Chef groupie, she noticed that the abundance of fresh ingredients that the contestants get to cook with is often not readily available to the home cook. She began by growing her own edible garden relying on knowledge passed down from her mom, grans, and aunties who’d grow food in the front and back yards of their homes. Today she designs, builds and maintains stylised kitchen gardens for home cooks and urban foodies in Joburg.
Joburg’s Chocoloza was founded by Vicki Bain, an environmental and sustainability consultant turned chocolatier and pastry chef. She spent time working at artisanal chocolatiers in Belgium before returning home to open Chocoloza. Last year, they were one of the first chocolatiers in South Africa to work with Ruby chocolate when it made its debut in the country. These pink creations and more can be found at their shop and chocolate lounge at 44 Stanley.
Masterchef SA winner, food writer, and host of Girl Eat World, Kamini Pather has just made ordering in much healthier. FÜDY is her new food delivery service that’s predominantly plant-based. She designs the meals which she describes as chef-inspired and macro-nutrient weighted. Think basil pesto and pecorino zoodles (zucchini noodles) with fresh peas and toasted sunflower seeds. The food used is all sourced from local producers. FÜDY is currently available through Uber Eats in Cape Town.
MasterChef SA season two winner and all-around local foodie celebrity Kamini Panther launched her new chef-inspired, healthy food delivery service FÜDY through Uber Eats at the beginning of this month...
Mokgadi Mabela is a third generation beekeeper and the founder of Native Nosi, a proudly local honey producer in an industry where much of our honey is imported. Native Nosi’s honey is raw which means it’s unprocessed and organic; exactly what the bee made is what goes into the bottle. Her favourite Native Nosi product is a blend of honey harvested from beehives in avo orchards and sunflower fields in Limpopo, Gauging, and Mpumalanga. Her aspirations are to build the biggest female beekeeping company in South Africa.
Nzeka Biyela is the co-founder of Sugarbird Gin, a Cape fynbos gin brand that launched in 2017. The lightly floral gin has notes of rooibos, honeybush, rose geranium, and the Cape Mayflower but the newcomer to the market has a mission that goes beyond great cocktails. With every bottle sold, they contribute to programmes that empower entrepreneurs with a focus on women and people of colour.
Leonista is South Africa’s first 100% Karoo agave spirit made in the traditional method used in Mexico to make agave spirits like mezcal. Sarah Kennan is the woman behind it all. After experimenting with making her own tequila she realised she had to go to the source in Mexico to learn from master distillers there. She brought her skills back home and found the perfect conditions in the Karoo to grow agave.
Of course, there are many more women-run food and drinks businesses that we love and support, not to mention the many women at the helm of restaurants around the country which make for a whole other list. From Lotsha to Setsong Tea to Modern Traditions, follow our Instagram to see the women we’re cheering on.
Support women in food at the inaugural FOOD XX Symposium and Awards on 12 Feb in Cape Town. Tickets available via Quicket.co.za. The awards are held in partnership with Eat Out.
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