Transmara Sugar Company Ltd (TSCL), the parent company of the “Mara Sugar” brand, produces sugar as a general commodity for the Kenyan market. Initially, the brand was more popular in specific segments, particularly in regions close to the mill in Transmara. However, it has now established itself as a strong national brand. Importantly too, end customers are more and more aware of the “miller-farmer” relationship behind the Mara brand and its contribution to the sustainability of the local sugar industry. Mara Sugar is produced solely from locally grown sugar cane, sourced from the lush green highlands of Transmara and its surroundings. By maintaining the “Local Only” ideology, the company not only supplies a superior product, but also ensures that it does so with the ongoing growth and development of their farming community in mind. TSCL, through its qualified staff, also brings in vast experience to the industry, ensuring food safety and other industrial standards are implemented.
Mara Sugar is one of the main locally milled sugar brands available on the shelves in Kenya. TSCL’s total sales has consistently represented 15 to 20 percent of the locally produced sugar sold in Kenya. The branded Mara Sugar, packaged in 0.5kg, 1kg and 2kg packets, represents 15 percent of its current total sales. Market penetration of the Mara Sugar brand has been steady over the past years. Nothing has changed with the approach, which is based on openness and honesty.
Mara Sugar initially opted for the longest route of “try our product and tell us what you think. We will adjust, adapt and fine-tune until we deliver; until you know us; until you trust us”.
The company has consistently focused on its main objective, which is to be closer to customers and to understand their expectations. The company believes that the trusted local sugar brand depends on proximity to the customer base; the only recipe for the successful implementation of a “customer first approach”.
Going forward, the brand will keep striving for growth. It intends to keep working to ensure that its growth in market share is achieved fairly, honestly, and most importantly, by living up to the
brand promise while keeping at heart the growth and development of the sugar cane farming community.
Quality – Origins – Trust
Since Mara Sugar’s introduction to the Kenyan market in 2016, its success has not just been an accolade for the company, but also for the Kenyan people.
Few products are completely grown, produced and sourced locally. Mara Sugar is most proud of its “Quality– Origins – Trust” policy. There is no question about its authenticity. The brand is only made in Kenya using raw material that is exclusively local. Transmara Sugar takes its brand promise extremely seriously and the market recognises that. The quality aspect and thus the trust in the product has become more prominent, providing the customer with a peace of mind from this perspective.
The brand was identified and recognised as a Superbrand for the second time, for the period 2020-2022.
Diamond Mark of Quality
The Diamond Mark of Quality (D-Mark) is a voluntary product certification scheme operated by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). It is a mark of excellence awarded to manufacturers that demonstrate high degrees of excellence in product manufacturing and quality, such as TSCL.
A D-Mark permit holder qualifies automatically for the standardisation mark (SM). A holder is permitted to use the mark for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory quality performance and full compliance to other contractual obligations signed between KEBS and the permit holder.
TSCL was created in 2011 and started operations in 2012 with a crushing capacity of 1,250 tons of sugarcane per day. In 2013, cane supply met the factory capacity, which the company subsequently increased to 2,000 tons of sugarcane per day. This was further expanded in 2015 to 4,000 tons of sugarcane per day. At that time, Sucriere des Mascareignes Ltd (SML), a subsidiary of Mauritian group Alteo Limited, acquired 51 percent, controlling interest in TSCL. Sugar production thereafter increased to 89,000 tons in 2016.
Being 100 percent dependant on outgrowers, it is essential for the company to ensure that sugar cane farming is sustainable. In 2016, TSCL decided to invest in agricultural activities to support the outgrowers technically and financially and be closer to them through decentralisation of the agricultural activities.
“From 17,000 tons of sugar per year in 2012 to over 100,000 tons in 2021; from 6,000 ha under cane in 2016/17 to 14,400 ha in 2021, an addition of 8400ha in 4years, it has been a challenging but exciting journey. The know-how and handwork of our teams on the ground and the farmers of our region, combined with the trust of our customers, have made the progress possible. We believe inbuilding on this synergy to develop and grow together.”- Frederick North-Coombes, CEO of Transmara Sugar Company Ltd
In the same year, TSCL carried out a soil survey, whereby 93,500 hectares of land was surveyed, and the climatic conditions assessed, to determine the sugarcane yield potential and identify site limitations.
This information was used to advise farmers as to where the land was most suitable for growing sugarcane. During the same period, an aerial survey was conducted to assess the areas under sugarcane and map them. The result of this exercise confirmed that areas growing sugarcane were insufficient to meet the factory capacity, hence the launch of an intensive sugarcane planting programme to assist farmers in developing 4,500 hectares per year. In decentralising its agricultural support activities, TSCL opened six regional offices, run by experienced staff who became the contact points for the farmers. This gave the outgrowers easy access to technical advice and services, including land preparation, supply of seed cane, fertilizer application, weeding, cane harvest and transport. Year 2016 was also the beginning of intensive road development and refurbishment by TSCL. The company has built about 100km of new roads in the region and covered some 300km of maintenance works in recent years, again demonstrating the value it places in offering support to the farmers, the local community, and the industry. TSCL also set up an agronomy section for new variety trials, fertilizer trials, pest and disease control management, soil health follow-up and a hot water treatment plant for the seed cane, amongst other activities. This section ensures that meaningful support is provided to farmers for optimisation of their crop. Furthermore, TSCL invested extensively in the implementation of a new transport system to reduce damage to the field and maintain yield to the farmers.
New methods are continuously being sought to ensure sustainability in what is done. In 2016/17, TSCL was crushing424,440 tons of cane and producing42,026 tons of Sugar, with 6000 hectares of cane developed. In 2019/20, the company crushed 759,656 tons of cane and produced 72,549 tons of Sugar, with14,400 hectares under cane developed. In 2020/21, 898,947 tons of cane were crushed, with 92,102 tons of Mara Sugar produced and 90,074 tons sold. The focus is to improve further in 2021/22 and beyond.
A wastewater treatment plant with an aerobic reactor, an aeration tank, secondary clarifier and sludge management system, was commissioned in October2018. The plant can treat up to 500m3
of effluent per day. The low figure is explained by the fact that part of the water is deviated in a tank. This volume is not measured. No other volume or flow-rate metering measures exist to enable the production of a more reliable and consistent figure for this year.
An Agriculture training programme was launched in 2018, whereby all TSCL Agricultural staff were trained together with the farmers of the community. Today, TSCL has its own training team, which continues with farmer training. In 2020, the company launched a Facebook account to facilitate direct interactions with all stakeholders, including the public.
Since Mara Sugar brand was introduced to the market, its promotion has traditionally been based on proximity – engaging with customers and encouraging feedback. In recent years, MaraSugar has been present in a variety of shows and events, such as the Agricultural Society of Kenya shows, the East Africa Baking Summit – Cake Festival 2019 (as the sponsor of the sugar category),etc.
Recent circumstances have required the brand to adapt in order to keep in contact with its customer base. A greater presence on social media, with more digital engagements through its Facebook page, are among the different steps the company is taking to ensure this.
Authenticity, Reliability, Trustworthy and Sustainability: Growing a Future Together
Every grain of Mara Sugar uplifts and develops the Transmara family. Together with farmers and the local community, TSCL strives every day to put a superior product on all tables. A happy customer means GROWING SUGARCANE.
GROWING FARMERS; GROWING COMMUNITY.
The brand is committed to its local origins, to deliver a product that comes from the Kenyan soil that is harvested and milled in beautiful Kenya.
Things you didn’t know about Mara Sugar
Mara Sugar’s Transmara region is located in the upper midlands of Western Kenya at an altitude ranging between 1,800 and 2,200 metres above sea levels. This specific region lies almost on the equator and benefits from high and reliable rainfall throughout the year, thus enabling sustainable cane without irrigation. The deep, well drained ferralitic soil enjoys an annual rainfall of around1800mm and is amongst the most fertile soils in Kenya.
Mara Sugar is 100 percent locally sourced.
Mara Sugar develops roads around farming areas to help make the transportation of the raw material easier.
Mara Sugar conducts aerial surveys to map and assess sugarcane fields, allowing them to calculate how much of the product is being grown.