‘Merakiolous’ – The evolution of a cake boss
Opinion, Strategy

As I walked through the aisle of “my local” supermarket, I was struck by a beautiful package in the bakery section of pre-mix ready to make cake. The packaging was for Meraki Cakes. A Zambian brand that is now creating a love mark with consumers.

But how did they get here? Anyone who knows the founder, Chomba Bowa, will know that she was a banker in her previous love before pursuing what is now clearly evident a passion for pastry.

What is interesting is that Meraki, being in the food processing industry, has gone through a number of iterations, from public view, of itself. Through them, Financial Insight believes that they discovered their true competences: Bringing happiness to people’s lives 

A lot of people love cake. To build a business around the love of cake requires understanding and learning from your customers. Meraki has had its fair share of divergent customers over the years. At one point, one would never imagine cake would meet beverages over socializing. This too was part of the process of knowing the customer.

Chomba Bowa – Founder Meraki

What is clear is that the founders of Meraki sat on the strategy table, possibly with their flagship cake for inspiration, and carved out a path to their customer’s hearts. Some of the things that standout in their evolved strategy include reinvesting in their core competence, packaging, location, customer diversification, and visibility of their ideal.

Food processing is what they are good at. Their cakes have now built a legacy. Analogous to KFC’s Colonel Sanders secret spice that goes into the memorable chicken, the packaged ready to bake offering is a master stroke because the consumer who loves Meraki cakes can also be a part of the experience of being able to make a legendary cake. The timing of this particular product could not have been better as COVID-19 changed how people associate with each other, spending more time at home, and want something to fill up their time. Missing cake? No problem. Open a pack of Meraki ready to bake. Problem solved.

To standout in retail, presentation is everything. The Meraki packaging is beautifully made making the product appealing to look at and worthy of any supermarket world wild. This speaks volumes of how the founders respect their consumers. One cannot eat cake whose presentation is ugly.

If the Kabulonga Mall Merarki Coffee shop is the first of a chain of outlets, then let it be so. When Amazon bought Wholefoods, many asked the question: But why? Just as Bezos answered that question, the response to Meraki’s decision to open a café at a premium mall shows the confidence that the founders have in the product that they sell and the importance of taking their competences and capabilities to the epicenter of retail. They understand who their target market is. A target market that appreciates an Americano with a perfectly baked red velvet cake whilst closing a business deal. Location is the essence of being.

By find Meraki ready to bake products in supermarkets, Chomba’s team has diversified their business model that is now a hybrid of business to customer and business to business. What this does is that the Meraki “franchise” can move more units of its beloved product on the back of already establish retailers who have a vast distribution network. Cake has found the solution to achieving economies of scale.

Listening to Chomba on the Stanbic Anazaki show, one key takeaway is that she believes in an ideal. Ideals are often enshrined in one’s background. Ideals blossom in times of turbulence. Sticking to that ideal has played a part in the evolution of Zambia’s Cake Boss and one can only imagine where ‘baking’ will take them next.


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