South Africa’s leading distributor of top international brands, Sunpac has turned the spotlight on growing black female innovators and entrepreneurs within the local hair care category to better align with South African consumer needs with their announcement of their investment into the Nilotiqa brand and partnering with founder and small business owner Thokozile Mangwiro.
Understanding the demographics of South Africa and the evolution at shelf level that is happening within the personal care category, Sunpac has responded with a growth strategy which aligns perfectly with the brand ethos of Nilotiqa. One which is solely focused on making locally grown hair care products accessible to local consumer needs and wallets, something which is difficult to do with imported product pricing, which often implies a premium or niche offering.
Discussing their approach Sunpac CEO Shaun Laffer says, “Our business has matured past the point of focusing on short term earnings and survival and is now at the point where we are setting long-term plans and making key investments for growth. What is particularly exciting about Nilotiqa, is we can achieve our long-term goals and at the same time offer benefits and support to local entrepreneurs which in turn accelerates their growth and development. We are thrilled to be partnering with and welcoming Thokozile Mangwiro into our family and have our full team working with her on this exciting brand and in support of local products and local manufacturing.”
Describing Thokozile Mangwiro as an early adopter who has paved much of the ground-breaking work required to open up space in the category, Laffer says the brand is hot property with past financial constraints and economies of scale having limited Nilotiqa’s local market share; something which Sunpac will move quickly to address.
« Thokozile Mangwiro describes herself as an unintentional entrepreneur, “As a black woman with natural hair, we face the continuous social perception that our hair is not considered ‘done’ when it is in its most natural state. »
Brand Alignment with Organic African Hair, Naturally
Thokozile Mangwiro describes herself as an unintentional entrepreneur, “As a black woman with natural hair, we face the continuous social perception that our hair is not considered ‘done’ when it is in its most natural state. Most hair care products that are aimed at black women offer benefits to change or alter the structure of our hair. I wanted to create a product that is specifically suited to my type of hair; a product that would not have to change the structure in order to “help” me maintain it. I wanted to be able to keep my hair in its healthiest form.”
With a Masters degree in Information and Communication Technology from the University of South Africa and a Bachelors degree in IT and Web Development, Mangwiro who had been employed for eight years within the corporate world, decided to set out and find her own answers to an age old problem, dry hair.
“Through my research we found that African hair is characterised by tight coils that grow closer to the scalp, which makes it a challenge for the hair’s natural oils to travel down the hair strands to their tips. The hair is therefore often dry due to the lack of these oils and therefore moisture. Nilotiqa is the solution that adds high quality oils and butters to help the hair maintain its natural moisture”
Thokozile Mangwiro is clear that the Nilotiqa brand is not selling black women dreams about how it will change their hair to something so different that they will not recognise themselves, but rather is a solution which retains the moisture that their hair requires for healthy maintenance and growth, something which is often tarnished by the use of harsh and harmful products set to alter black women’s already beautiful hair.
“Whether you wear a weave or braids, Nilotiqa keeps what is beneath – your natural hair – in its healthiest state,” says Mangwiro. “When African hair is not adequately retaining moisture, it can lead to several conditions, such as dandruff, thinning and damage of the hair, a receding hairline, or even worse hair falling out. These conditions can then have a significant impact on the health and aesthetic of the African coil.”
Seeing a gap in the market for natural and organic hair care products for maintaining afro natural hair, South African-born Mangwiro launched the Nilotiqa brand in 2016 with organic, professionally formulated products that include Deep Moisture Butter, Curl Activating Gel and Nourishing Scalp & Hair Oil currently available nationwide through retailers Dischem, Clicks and Pick ‘n Pay.
With the recent partnership funded by internal Sunpac capital, Laffer says Mangwiro is both knowledgeable in the category and her product development is guided by her personal intelligence of what consumers want, with Sunpac now working to make the range more affordable and accessible to many more consumers, as well as increasing the current Shea & Coco Collection and Creamy Collection ranges to include new on-trend products.
Growth Category Opportunity
According to Laffer, the multicultural, natural hair care category in the formal market is growing at double digits, and as the fastest growing segment in hair care it is valued at hundreds of millions of rands. “Nilotiqa’s market share is still very small, but we have a plan to get to a meaningful number in the next 24 to 36 months.
“We believe the Nilotiqa business has scale to grow exponentially from its present size. Current challenges to growth are the time required to test and launch some of the new products and to open up our distribution footprint in retail, which will require a solid and consistent track record of consumer adoption to support the request and need for more retail space.”
An Appetite for Acquisition
Sunpac is a significant and professional player in the hair care category distributing a number of major global brands. In 2020, Sunpac acquired another local brand The Perfect Hair in the same category when they partnered with founder Taryn Gill.
“Our appetite to acquire other local brands, not only in this category, is high,” says Laffer. We are acquisitive. We onboarded Investec in 2021 as a minority shareholder in our business to assist with our acquisitive growth strategy and it is an upward trajectory from here. “
Established in 1967, Sunpac is a trusted partner to retailers offering a full category management solution and expertise covering marketing and brand management of leading international brands as well as managing private label solutions. The business involves importing, warehousing, sales, and marketing of a wide range of products catering to the personal care and baby markets. As the retail landscape evolves, Sunpac is investing to ensure they are skilled, relevant, and prepared to supply into new and rapidly evolving consumer trends.