The Milky Way: Meet the founder of Koita Foods

by Dina Maaty | Published 3 weeks ago

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Entrepreneur Mustafa Y. Koita is founder and CEO of Koita Foods. He established the organic food company in 2013, with the aim of making healthy food more accessible for families in the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia) region.

American-born Mustafa grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where he went on to gain a Bachelor of Business Administration (BAA) at NIU focused in International Business. During his childhood, his father instilled a strong sense of financial responsibility in him, and while living comfortably.

Koita and his three siblings were taught the value of working hard (as he started his first job as a ‘busboy’ at the age of 13) to gain life’s luxuries. This is a lesson that he has carried with him throughout his adult life and he credits with making him the tenacious businessman he is today.

Please tell us a bit more about your business.
Koita’s mission is to help families eat healthier, by offering the cleanest, and best tasting premium products. The company was founded on the philosophy of ‘Eat Good, Feel Good, Do Good’ – which means that if we eat good, we feel good which in turn makes us do good.

Koita was started in 2013, when I found it challenging to purchase organic milk in the UAE for his three kids. By the end of 2020, Koita will have 19 products across three categories: Organic Dairy, Lactose Free Dairy and Plant-Based Milks.

How has the dairy industry evolved over the years?
The dairy industry has significantly evolved over the past 10 years. There has been a huge shift in consumer demand for more environmentally sustainable and ethical sourcing practices. This is why all our dairy farms are open where our cows roam around freely and are milked for a limited time per day.

We’re also seeing a shift in consumer demand towards healthier, cleaner alternatives. “Organic”, “Hormone-Free”, “Pesticide-Free” are what our consumers have been asking for. In terms of categories, dairy products have seen a slight erosion in market share with plant-based milk consumption increasing as customers demand allergen-free and healthier options.

How did you diversify to cater to different tastes?
A few years ago, we started noticing a shift in the consumer landscape where there was an exceptional growing consumer interest in plant-based drinks due to dietary restrictions, allergies and/or lifestyle changes.

After speaking to several of our customers, we decided to launch our plant-based (Non-Dairy) milk range. Keeping true to our mission of helping families eat healthier, we made our plant-based range as clean as we could and also made sure it had a great taste profile. We now have three ranges. Today, our plant-based products are the fastest moving offering.

What has the single most successful turning point been this last year
Expansion across products and regions. Within the last year, we have launched in the East Asia region, and have also released four new products including mini 200ml Organic Oat & Almond Milks, 1L Whole Fat Lactose-Free Milk and an Organic Coconut Milk.

How has COVID-19 affected business?
We had to step back and get creative with our supply chain while the demand for our products was skyrocketing. A combination of being a staple product with a long shelf life and the nutritional benefits Koita stands by, we have, fortunately, seen a rapid increase in growth. 

Notably, we’ve also seen a 370% increase in online sales across our 10 countries. Regarding supply chain logistics, we learned to book our container shipments in advance and re-configured our demand forecasts early on to make sure we had enough inventory.

What are some of your newest products and which ones have been the most successful?
The most successful NEW product we have launched this year has been the Whole Fat Lactose-free 1L. The product has tapped into a market that is currently being heavily underserved (90% adults in East Asia are lactose intolerant).

Our Whole Fat Lactose-free Milk, unlike anything else in the market currently, is free from all hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and artificial preservatives. It’s also enriched with vitamins to give it added nutrition per cup. At 3.7g of healthy fats per 100ml, it’s pure, creamy, healthy deliciousness. Our Coconut and cute 200ml Almond and Oat milks are also seeing increased demand.

Anything else you would like to add?
We’re excited to see the hotel and catering industry bounce back from the lockdowns! We have started highlighting more of our HORECA business activities on our Instagram account @koitafoods and welcoming our customers back to business as usual. 

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