Providing natural and healthy frozen snack options for Ugandans: Krystal Ice

If you have been to some of the local supermarkets in Uganda, ‘Fruity Ice Pops’ is a brand that you must have seen at the ice cream point. For close to 3 years now, these mouth-watering frozen snacks have been a favorite among both adults and children in Uganda.

We caught up with Linnet Nkunda and learnt more about her resilient entrepreneurship journey with Krystal Ice, the odds she had to overcome and how she made her entrepreneurship dream a reality.

Pursuing the entrepreneurship dream

Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Linnet Nkunda always knew that she would start her own business one day, but after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, she faced the same challenge most entrepreneurs face when starting out, lack of capital.

Linnet then started her career as a research assistant and was later promoted to Programs Manager at a Danish Consultancy firm. A few years later, the firm ceased their operations in Uganda and Linnet knew this was a sign to pursue her entrepreneurship dreams. With the work experience she had gathered, a little capital and support from her husband and family friend, they went into the business of producing ice flakes in 2009 through their company, Krystal Ice.

Krystal Ice headquaters in Kampala

Reinventing the business

Business was doing well until 2015 when they started facing major challenges. To prevent the business from closing down, Linnet knew she had to think of ways to reinvent the business and explore what other products/services she could provide.

In 2016, she applied to the Uganda Research Institute and went into deeper research of the ice industry. She also attended a business exchange program in the United States, where she was exposed to other ice products available in the market and ice pops stood out for her.

Unlike ice flakes, she realised she would have a broader market with ice pops and get an opportunity to impact the community.

In 2017, Krystal Ice introduced Fruity Ice pops, a delicious fruity frozen snack in the market.

Fruity Ice Pops

Fruity ice pops: Target market and unique edge

Krystal Ice’ Fruity Ice Pops is targeted to middle to high income earners who are health conscious but still have a sweet tooth.

The ice pops come in 6 different flavors: pineapple, mango, watermelon, mixed fruit, apple and orange. Unlike other ice pops in the market which only have water and food color, Fruity Ice pops are a natural, healthier option and made from real fruits grown by farmers in Uganda.

This unique edge makes the product a favorite among adults, teenagers and children who now have a new category of frozen snacks to choose from.

Marketing strategies

For Linnet, listening to customers was key as she introduced the product in the market,

“We started with testing the product, listening to our customers and finding out what their needs before actively going into creating awareness of the products through word of mouth, flyers, banners, and establishing an online presence.”

The major distribution channels for Fruity Ice Pops are local supermarkets, schools, events and walk in sales from people/companies who come to buy the products directly from the facility or make orders and they deliver.

Participating in several events especially those targeted to children has helped Krystal Ice create awareness for the Fruity Ice Pops. Some of the major events they have graced include the Kampala Kids Run and the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala.

Impacting farmers and creating employment

Through Fruity Ice Pops, Linnet achieved her goal of value addition to the community through giving an opportunity to local farmers to make extra income by providing Krystal Ice with fresh fruits used to make the ice pops.

Linnet also acknowledges that when she started the business, she only had 3 full time employees and the number has now grown to 8. Krystal Ice also provides part time job opportunities to a few more people who support them during events.

Linnet interacting with one of the farmers who supplies Krystal Ice with fruits

Achievements and recognition

What Linnet considers her greatest achievement is bringing her idea to life,

“Before I started the Fruity Ice Pops business, I shared my idea with my close friends and family, but no one really got it. When I was in the United States, I got to learn about incubation centres and I did not know if we had any in Uganda until I applied to the Uganda Research Institute. When I shared my idea with them, they understood my vision, asked me to present a prototype which they approved. People finally saw my vision come to life and that was big for me.”

The validation they have gotten through the years such as winning awards and being profiled in different media has been a great motivation for Linnet and the Krystal Ice team.

Some of the awards they have won include:

  1. Winner of USD 5,000: Business plan competition by Tony Elemelu Foundation
  2. Winner of USH 15,000,000: Business proposal competition for the Rising Woman Award by DFCU
  3. Winner: Feed the future – Growing Women’s Entrepreneurship (GroWe) Award through Partnering for innovation program: USAID

Linnet receiving a cheque after winning the business proposal competition for the Rising Woman Award by DFCU

The business has also been featured in Seeds of Gold, a popular show on NTV Uganda, Spark TV and a feature in the Daily Monitor, a top newspaper in Uganda.

Pressing forward through challenges

When starting out, Linnet did not have a team of marketing professionals to help her push the product harder in the market. Getting people to know about the product and embrace it was a challenge but with time, the product has actually been well received.

“Everyday presents new challenges but as a company, we try to press forward through hard work and persistence,” Linnet said.

Advice for entrepreneurs

Linnet’s advice to entrepreneurs is to just start,

“Do not fear to start. Don’t focus a lot on capital. When I started, I did not have the resources I have today, but I started small and progressed.”

Value from the GrowthAfrica Accelerator

The GrowthAfrica Accelerator was of great value to Krystal Ice and through the programme, Linnet made a number of improvements in the business,

“We have redefined our mission, vision, value proposition and business model which are things we had not clearly defined before. We have also improved our financial record keeping, sales and marketing processes.”

 What’s in the future?

Linnet has big ambitions for Krystal Ice. In the near future, she hopes to scale into a world class factory that will allow them to produce products for export. She admits that they are actively looking for investment opportunities to allow for this to happen.

“We have also acquired the ‘Quality Mark’ from Uganda Bureau of Standards which gives us confidence that our product is of good quality. We plan to leverage on this by diversifying our product lines and work out partnerships with more supermarkets so that we have our branded freezers with products in their stores for more visibility,” Linnet said.

Linnet is also thinking about opening a physical store in the near future and hopefully roll out a franchise program.

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