The informal fast-food industry is among those destined to suffer the most in the aftermath of the listeriosis outbreak which has led to the deaths of 181 people – mostly infants – and the recall of millions of ready-to-eat meat products.
With the products off the shelf, traders in this multibillion-rand industry would be hard-pressed for alternatives, according to GG Alcock, industry expert and author of the book, Kasinomics.
“The sector is almost entirely reliant on polony in vetkoeks and kotas or spatlho [bunny chows]. Russians and viennas also feature on almost every kota. From this perspective, the kota and vetkoek sector is heavily impacted by the recent issues.
“In the informal food sector there is a large sector of amaplate (pre-cooked meals), intloko (sheep/ cow head) and isibindi (liver) that will, however, not be affected.”
Alcock’s company Mina Nawe marketing conducted a dipstick call to 50 outlets which he found had all suffered massive losses by Sunday already.
This followed two major polony brands Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken being implicated in the outbreak. Enterprise’s Polokwane facility was identified as the source of the flare up while its Germiston facility and that of Rainbow Chicken in Sasolburg were also fingered.
Retailers such as Massmart, Shoprite, Woolworths, Pick n Pay and Spar had to pull masses of cold meat stock from their shelves, leaving millions of consumers and traders, especially the underprivileged, with scant alternatives.
“On Monday, however, many were able to take their polony back to suppliers and exchange it for cheese slices, mince and steak. By Monday afternoon kota outlets had changed their menu boards and were offering different products,” added Alcock.
“We saw Double Dekker Cheese Kota with double cheese, slap chips and egg, instead of cheese and polony, for R15.”
According to Mina Nawe, 50 000 informal food takeaway traders selling everything from the kotas to vetkoeks, shisanyamas (buy and braai) and amaplate food trucks were the top outlets with turnovers worth in excess of R80 billion per year.
The Citizen team visited several outlets in Orlando, Soweto, yesterday and were told business sales had been affected.
“Business has been bad. I don’t know how I’ll survive. We are not making as much profit and this is affecting me,” said Kevin Khambule, owner of Kevin’s Kitchen. “Fifty percent of my sales have gone down. I normally buy 80 loaves of bread each week but I only buy 50 loaves now.”
Khambule said he had to let go of one employee to survive and make ends meet.
“Letting go of one employee was very hard for me but I didn’t have a choice because I am not making as much profit as before. I used to make around R3 500 every week but that has changed now. Customers are now buying chips and mince filled kotas,” said Khambule.
He owns two kota outlets and planned to open a butchery next to his shop; but he’s sceptical because of the losses.
“I want to open up a butchery but I don’t know how if I’m going to survive if this doesn’t blow over soon,” he said.
Tsotetsi Tuck Shop owner Betty Tsotetsi said she resorted to changing her menu to accommodate her customers and to make a profit. “I put chips, cheese and eggs in my kotas,” she said.
Despite the drastic change, Tsotetsi has not increased the price of her kotas because she sells to school children. “I add mince and mashed potatoes to my kotas and I don’t overcharge my customers because I also sell to school children,” said Tsotetsi.
Customers also aired their frustrations and said they were struggling to accept the change.
“I don’t even know what lunch to pack for my child. It’s becoming expensive because I give my child pocket money right now,” said Themba Baduza.