Phuti Kabasa worming her way into the snacks market

Flavoured mopani worms from Phuti Kabasa.
Flavoured mopani worms from Phuti Kabasa.
Image: Supplied

Most people express shock when a much-loved indigenous food is appropriated. Remember the uproar when a fake advert about a food franchise jumping on the Mogodu Monday train went viral?

Entrepreneur Phuti Kabasa is not sitting back and waiting for others to revolutionise her favourite indigenous food, mopani worms. The Limpopo-born game changer has stepped up and created flavoured mopani worms that you can snack on any time.

Her business Mopani Queens, named for herself and two daughters, was started in 2018 after a stint selling atchaar.

"The one thing that people don't know is that the mopani worm is not a worm, it's a caterpillar. I don't know why we call it a worm? People think it's not a nice thing to eat because of that word worm," says the 34-year-old who works in the public sector.

Her business is a side hustle.

"It's a lot of work but it's something that I am very passionate about. I [recently] got a colleague to eat the mopani worms... I just want people to try them because I know they will love them."

Kabasa says unflavoured mopani worms taste like morogo (wild spinach). She advises that her flavoured snacks are best enjoyed like biltong, snacking on them while chugging down a beer or as padkos.

Phuti Kabasa hopes to go mainstream with her flavoured mopani worms.
Phuti Kabasa hopes to go mainstream with her flavoured mopani worms.

"They go really well with red wine."

There are many challenges that come with running a business. One of them is that mopani worms are seasonal, another is that she needs to invest more in dryers for the caterpillar and finding a courier that's good with food.

"I've had a lot of people ask me if I'm compliant with the SABS, which is something I'm working on. It is difficult as I'm working from my house currently. Recently we have been able to cut down the cost of buying from different harvesters. There's a lot of challenges."

The packs sell for R35 per packet for salted worms, and R40 for peri-peri, BBQ and chutney flavours.

"I would love to walk into a shop and find my products there. Walk into a Pick n Pay in KZN and find my product there.

"I want this snack to be as big as biltong.. I mean there is nothing more uniquely African than mopani worms.

"I wish to see people not be put off by the image of mopani worms. I want the actual worm to penetrate the market, not just my snack, because it is such a great food. it's affordable, sustainable and there are no additives. It's a wonderful food."

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