Karunas Reddy has loved food for as long as she can remember. She loves experimenting with different ingredients and flavour profiles and revels in creating recipes. It’s no wonder then that after 15 years of feeling stifled by her job in the banking industry, she found her muse in food.
It was a delicious discovery that put her on the entrepreneurial track. She tasted a gluten-free lasagne at a dinner party celebrating her daughter’s 16th birthday. “It was such a hit! Everyone loved this lasagne,” she says. She went back to the supplier to buy more. “A week or two later, the business went on sale.” She was 48 years old and looking for a business venture of her own, after initially joining her husband’s business.
The decision to buy Nonna’s Food was not hard. Wholesome and delicious, the products appealed to her palate. Being conscious of what she puts on her plate to feed her family served as further inspiration. Nonna’s Food products include gluten and wheat-free pasta, dry mixes, deli items, spices, pies, biscuits, and pizzas. Some products are made with spinach, butternut, and beetroot.
Just as she wants to feed her family food made with wholesome ingredients, she wants her products to be as organic and responsibly grown as possible. “It’s a difficult thing because when you work with small-scale farmers all you have as a guarantee that your product is organic is their word.”
Never one to let anything stand between her and her passion, she has already found a solution. “There is someone who manages a group of farmers. They check the way they farm and they are able to give us certification – we are getting to where we want to be.”
She says taking part in the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme is a building block for greater things to come. “The programme provides the tools to ensure success as an entrepreneur even when the daily challenges are very real and intimidating. It has helped me set goals and stay focused. I will achieve my ultimate vision.”
The 18-month Tholoana programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing & PR, to financial management and human resources.
Joff Wickins, Karunas’ Tholoana mentor, admires her tenacity. “Nonna’s Foods has been steadily gaining market share in a very niche market of gluten-free products. Karunas prepares and packages dry-mixes of 15 end-user products like spaghetti and macaroni plus the supply of various gluten-free mixes for baking and food preparation.”
“Her clients include reputable brand names like Food Lovers Market, Dischem and Spar. Karunas has shown great personal tenacity during her time on the programme.”
Karuna’s explains: “My vision for the business includes working on a national footprint to reach as many gluten intolerant individuals as possible through our retail partners. This will be further enhanced with the launch of our very own online shop. We will continue to support local where possible and seek to be earth-friendly food producers.”
Gluten-free carrot cake recipe
Karuna’s share this recipe of a family favourite. It can be eaten frosted or plain.
½ cup sugar or sugar substitute
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup natural yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp salt
250g Nonna’s Gluten-free All Purpose Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup raisins or diced pineapple or grated zucchini
1 cup pecan nuts
2 cups grated carrots
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- Sift all the dry ingredients together.
- Combine the wet ingredients with the sugar in a mixing bowl.
- Fold in the dry ingredients alternately with the fruit, carrots and nuts.
- Mix until combined. Do not over-mix.
- Bake in a ring pan for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until the test skewer/toothpick comes out clean.
Tip: You can add two eggs and reduce the yogurt by half for a similar result.
For more information about Nonna’s Food, contact Karunas Reddy or call her on 033 343 1955.
For more information about the Tholoana Enterprise programme visit the website.