Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe Lifestyle Editor
There are certain things that just say “home”. These are those items that result in little tugs to your heartstrings induced by the sight, smell, sound, taste and feel of them when you return home after a while in strange lands. These are the items that people marooned in those foreign lands demand that visiting relatives take them because they spell “home”.
At least 11 uniquely Zimbabwean brands have stood the test of time in the face of competition from new inventions, cheaper imports and changing tastes. Some have remained exactly as they were more than a decade ago while others have been reconstituted to suit upcoming generations.
Mazoe Orange Crush
You will find this brand in some supermarkets in neighbouring countries. From a time when it had a virtual monopoly on the market as the only concentrate on the market, Mazoe Orange Crush has remained a great favourite of many. The recipe has been somewhat altered. Some Zimbabweans based in neighbouring countries like Botswana and South Africa swear that the versions of the crush made elsewhere are just not the same as the home-made variety.
The makers have given in to the current fetish for all matters neon and now produces this canvas shoe in colours fit to blind you complete with garish laces to cater for the newer generations. But the classic Tomy in black remains a firm favourite for many ages and will no doubt remain an asset into the future.
When Bata declined at the nadir of the economic turmoil, a dirge was set up as many older women moaned for their canvas takkie. The shoe has managed to withstand stiff competition from cheaper versions from you-know-where as anyone who can afford it would rather have the Tomy. Too bad the Pata pata slops and Sandak jelly shoes have not managed to make a comeback against the cheaper imports from China and Malawi respectively.
Flat winnowing baskets hidden under copious heaps of thickly sliced bread spread thickly with Buttercup margarine and slathered with Sun Jam used to be the essence of a Christmas morning in the rural areas. In spite of changing palates, marmalade and other jams have never been quite able to give Sun Jam a run for its money on the Zimbabwean market.
Our only beer, so the pay off line used to go in an advert for the lager which showed breathtaking vistas of the river while the lyrics were simply the name Zambezi repeated. That was how the beer was introduced to the market to face off against international brands like Castle and Lion.
Olivine cooking oil
The price of this cooking oil brand is higher than even the imports and yet anyone who is not counting the cents happily loads up with it. Considered the king of cooking oil, Olivine ruled the roost long before imports became the order of the day. Despite stiff challenges from SA brand D’lite, Olivine cooking oil remains the premium brand.
This was the first dairy juice blend on the market and for a while it enjoyed a monopoly. Then the competition came along and Cascade almost priced itself out of the market. Although it remained a preferred brand, most people opted for the cheaper options. The manufacturer then came up with smaller packaging which matched the rivals in pricing and they were back in business. Cascade remains a top Zimbabwean brand with other dairy blends being generically named ‘‘cascades’’ by some people.
This Dairibord milk product has been a great favourite of Zimbabwe since its introduction decades ago. It came on the scene to rival Steri Milk which had been the preferred product for many as it was about the only liquid milk on the market not needing refrigeration, at a time when fridges were mostly owned by urban white families.
More brands have since come onto the market but Chimombe has retained its pole position. However, it is currently facing stiff competition from Dendairy and imported long-life brands from South Africa.
But notably the war is on pricing rather than quality. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Dairibord’s sour milk Lacto, which used to be the premium choice and gave sour milk its generic name. It has since lost not only its identity as many other producers are labelling their brands “lacto” as well, word among the consumers is that thick and creamy are no longer guaranteed descriptions for the former top Zimbabwean brand.
Young and old alike agree that this is one case where Zimbabwe got it right. The competition from neighbouring countries have tried to come up with their own version such as Cerelac for grown-ups and D’lite, but in Zimbabwe at least, Cerevita remains the cereal of choice.
Colcom Pork Pie
The Colcom pork and curry pies seem to have been around forever tempting generation after generation of locals. The pies with their distinctive meaty interior and a crusty crust were wolved down with carbonated drinks decades ago as the snack of choice. With the appearance of fast food outlets people have more choice of meals on the go but a pie and a drink remain an affordable choice for most. Other pies have made appearances on the market but the Colcom classic pies are still in the game.
The traditional beer brew has always been a favourite from the Shake-Shake and the draught (mudhayiwa) versions. It has always been viewed as affordable and authentic. Then came the Scud which was launched during the Iraqi war and got its name from the American missile trending at the time. It upped the game and has kept its top ranking with the changeover to the carbonated and bottled Super Chibuku. In spite of the new packaging it remains a drink to be shared and a beverage that oils many a social discussion among a huge number of the populace.
Having your product counterfeited is the highest compliment that you can be paid. It means that you set the bar and the competition has got no hope of bettering your standard so they can only try to steal from your glory. Unfortunately, the vice chews up all your profits margins. So good is Eversharp that counterfeits of the brand have been made to dupe locals into believing that they are buying their most trusted pen. Even internationally acclaimed brands like Bic have failed to shake the local market’s confidence in the home-grown pen.
Other strong Zimbabwean brands include Buttercup margarine, Ngwerewere and Pearlenta super refined mealie meal. So next time someone tells you that Zimbabwean industry is dead you have several examples to politely argue that they may be wrong.