Eshet Foods: Bottled dinner on supermarket shelves
Preparing food for a whole family when both parents work outside home and the children are too young is a challenge endeavor. Living in Leipzig had made the task easier for Tigist Tekeste but she knew it was close to impossible in Ethiopia, especially when the burden largely falls on women and mothers. The changing pace of modern life in urban areas meant something had to change and Tigist wanted to be a part of it.
Eshet is a ready to eat traditional Ethiopian food product by Tigist. Eshet has six distinct products including Lentil Sauce, Tomato Sauce, Collard Greens, Pumpkin, Beetroot as well as Split-pea Sauce. What began in her own home with the support of her husband and three children has expanded to a larger facility.
Her first attempt at Eshet began when living and learning in Leipzig, Germany with her husband and children. She had been in search for a business venture she could bring back home and considered different sectors including a medical diagnostics laboratory.
Her decision to invest in food led her to research more about it and began experimenting at home. Early attempts at bottling misir wot (lentil sauce) were wildly unpredictable, once leading to what she called a bomb-like explosion in her kitchen. The process took a long time to refine and had to be reassessed on her return to Addis Ababa where the humidity and temperature were different and had to be accounted for in her secret procedure.
Tigist had experimented with her all-natural organic methodology for five years before developing a technique that allows sauces in glass jars to stay up to a year on the shelf. Her method uses no preservatives or chemicals and thesauce is edible for the next few days after opening the jar if refrigerated.
Sourcing organic ingredients directly from the farm and getting all her spices and seasoning from her mother in law, Tigist makes sure she knows each element in her sauces. The balance of flavors is delicate and her refined palate can detect the slightest changes in ingredients.
Her facility at Ayer Tena has a sterilizing room for the imported glass jars, a preparation and cooling facility, as well as bottling and labeling station. The ready to eat sauces can be eaten straight from the jar or warmed with a little bit of oil and seasoned to the person’s liking.
Tigist has diligently worked days and sleepless nights and Eshet is now in Friendship and Safeway supermarkets. Her company already employingfour other people is being incubated by iceAddis and Bloom Accelerator Fund. She is planning on expanding to include non-vegan options like chicken or beef stew and tap the baby food market. Her work is about to pay off and she is grateful.
The reception to Eshet has been warm. The initial confusion has given way to seeing its potential. Women have especially been glad to have access to pre-prepared sauces like the pumpkins or tomato sauce to use as a base when cooking other things.
“I’ve received some push back, especially from men. They say I’m making women lazy;and that a woman is supposed to be preparing this herself,” says Tigist. Traditional gender roles relegate household duties to women and a venture like Eshet is seen as more viable for single men until they meet a woman skilled in the culinary arts.