A child’s birthday party, a kitchen full of excited – and hungry – preteens, and a spontaneous decision all led to the existence of Browns Corn Dogs. Started by a husband-and-wife duo, Browns Corn Dogs has found success with the frozen convenient food business in an industry they had little to no experience in.
Mabel and Wale Akinlabi from Johannesburg told Vutivi News they were hosting a birthday party for their 11-year-old daughter, and it was in their kitchen that they took their first tentative steps into the food production and retail sector. “During our daughter’s birthday party, I yanked out corndogs that I was making,” said Mabel Akinlabi.
“The kids loved these things, and I asked them all: ‘If we make these would you ask your parents to buy you some?’ and their answer was an emphatic ‘yes’,” she said. That emphatic ‘yes’ propelled them to launch their company Brown Foods in 2019, manufacturing the single corndog product, which was presented on a chopstick.
The Akinlabis then invested in the equipment they purchased from the United States – the original home of the corndog. They worked on setting up and polishing their recipes while building up their business in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was at the time shutting businesses like the one they had just started.
It took grit, hard work, determination and a lot of positivity to break into the unfamiliar food retail market. It was while they were working on their recipe and mastering it, that they took their next big step and approached Shoprite for a distribution deal.
“We approached Shoprite and struck a deal with them,” said Akinlabi. “We asked what pricing would be fair, what regions we should go into, what distributors we should use, what consumers like and if they liked our packaging. “Retail is a whole new sector for us; we love it, and we have learned a lot, (even though) it has been challenging,” she also said.
Browns Foods now supplies Browns Corn Dogs to over 100 Checkers outlets nationwide. They were also able to expand their range to include two more flavours: Jalapeño Cheese and Creamy Cheese, in addition to the first, Awesome Original.
“Kids love the fact that it’s salty, sweet and creamy in your mouth,” Akinlabi explained. “It’s full of meat and mom knows that it’ll keep you full for a long time. It’s also on a stick so it’s really fun to eat.” The Akinlabis are looking to expand their product range thanks to the success of a remarkable small business journey that started in their kitchen, looking to feed a posse of excitable 11-year-olds.
To further expand beyond their humble beginnings, the couple are looking to offer vegan corn dogs as well soon.