Who doesn’t like a refreshing, soft-serve ice-cream to complement the breaking of the waves on an (almost) endless stretch of sand?
It’s fair to say that Rita da Silva and Inês Fernandes work in the market for memories, fresh ones at that. Confusing? Not at all. They live in Tofo, Inhambane province, a favourite beach for thousands of tourists (both national and foreign) and three years ago they had the idea of creating a handmade ice cream brand. It’s called Zhizha, which means ‘Summer’ in Shona, one of the Bantu languages spoken in central Mozambique and other neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Rita, Mozambican and a sociologist by profession, and Inês, Portuguese with a Mozambican soul and a physical education teacher, like to say that they were pushed by fate. First, they were pushed towards Tofo beach and then towards the entrepreneurship on which they have embarked to this day.
“We had time, especially during the pandemic, and a lot of desire to create something different, of quality, with the products and people of this marvellous land,” they recall. They began with a course in ice cream production attended by Rita in Rome, Italy, while they matured ideas for recipes, packaging, brand design and strategy.
With their creativity fuelled by curiosity, they decided to go ahead with the business of making and selling artisanal and organic ice creams, since all the ingredients used are natural. It was a way of introducing a differentiated product in a market where most of the options are industrially produced and imported.
“With creativity fuelled by curiosity, they decided to go ahead with the business of making and selling artisanal ice creams”
ZhiZha ice creams are produced in a small factory in the village of Tofo, amid palm trees as far as the eye can see and with the door open to the community, simultaneously creating a source of local income.
“Today we have two women who help make the ice-cream and clean the factory. Then we want to boost the business of local fruit sellers by co-operating with them as suppliers of raw materials.”
If in the early years they began by conquering the local shops on Tofo beach and the supermarkets in the area, today the handmade ice creams produced by Rita and Inês are sold in other districts of Inhambane province, namely in Vilankulos, at the Beach Lodge.
More recently, they arrived in Maputo, at Lokal supermarkets, in what is their first venture ‘across borders’, but within doors, of a product that, due to the way it is made and the cold storage requirements, ends up being sold at a slightly higher price than the competition, but which the quality fully justifies, they guarantee. “This is a business of scale, but we never want to lose the identity of our ice creams. What is it? It’s the memory of Tofo, awakened by the flavours of this region among those who have been here.
We’ve already done some sales experiments in Maputo and the reception is very good, because through the palate, memories of unforgettable moments spent on holiday with family and friends are awakened.”
ZhiZha ice creams are made from fruit and natural products that are abundant in Inhambane province and are available with a water or milk base, but always with lots of fruit, from coconut to peanuts, cashew nuts and many others.
The business has grown and now it’s time to “take the ice creams produced in Tofo to more and more people. And, why not, to the whole country?”