How Shoprite helped save a small pet foods business from closing down due to load shedding

Nhlanhla Dlamini, the founder of Maneli Pets. Image: Supplied.

Nhlanhla Dlamini, the founder of Maneli Pets. Image: Supplied.

Published Apr 28, 2024


While the country is experiencing a steady supply of electricity currently, this was not the case a few months ago when the nation contended with stage 5 and 6 rolling blackouts imposed by the ailing power utility, Eskom.

Many businesses suffered during this period and Nhlanhla Dlamini, who founded Maneli Pets in 2016, was one of them.

"Our business would not survive another 12 months with constant rolling blackouts. We had to find an alternative solution,” Harvard-trained entrepreneur, Dlamini told Business Report.

The small, Johannesburg-based pet foods manufacturer uses refrigeration and dehydration machines that run on 24 to 48-hour cycles.

During stage 5 and 6 load shedding, the factory had to close, with raw materials going to waste, affecting their bottom line and ability to provide consistent work to all 60 employees.

“It became clear we needed a long-term sustainable power solution. We started installing solar panels in 2018 but required funding to conclude the process. Banks are not open to those types of requests, particularly for SMMEs. We were finally able to complete the solar power system with financial assistance from the Shoprite Group's small business development division, Shoprite Next Capital, which enabled us to install the required inverter and battery,” Dlamini said.

With a capacity of 200KWh from the battery and 100KVA from the inverter, the installation produces a total of 100kW per hour, which is enough to run production during stage 1 to stage 5 and partially during stage 6 load shedding.

This also makes it possible for Nhlanhla to put more of his employees back to work.

Maneli Pets was onboarded by the Shoprite Group in 2021, initially in just five Checkers stores in the Western Cape.

The demand for their 100% natural pet treats and snacks grew so fast that the business was supplying to over 200 stores within less than a year and is now available at all Checkers stores nationwide.

Maneli Pets grew its employee count from 35 to 55 people in 18 months following access to the Checkers’ consumer market through its standalone Petshop Science stores.

Dlamini said the initial plan was to slowly start supplying more Checkers and Petshop Science stores, but the enthusiasm for his products rapidly changed these plans.

“We were meant to grow at five stores a quarter, but within roughly eight months, we were in over 270 Checkers supermarkets nationwide. Our Happy Hound products are now also available via Petshop Science online.

“This roll-out was unheralded,” says Dlamini. “It speaks volumes as to how serious Checkers is about this category and how committed their buyers are.”

Maude Modise, GM: Enterprise Supplier Development for the Shoprite Group, said: “In the current economic climate, we need SMME’s to help drive growth and create much-needed jobs.

“Our group understands the key role we can play in the success of these small suppliers through the access we offer them to our large consumer market to grow their businesses,” Modise added.