Bringing a taste of Africa to Scotland

30 May 2017
Isatou and Paul with the Baotic drink and the baobab fruit which forms a key ingredient.

The Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) student behind a breakfast drink made from an African super fruit is in the running for a prestigious cash award. 

The healthy beverage is the product of Hippo & Hedgehog, a company formed by student Isatou Njai , which is just one step away from becoming the proud recipient of a Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award having made the final of the UK-wide competition.

The winner and runner-up of the competition will receive a share of £82,000 prize money, as well as access to a range of other prizes designed to support and help grow businesses.

From over 2,000 entries from universities across the UK and Ireland, Hippo & Hedgehog beat teams from a range of Russell Group Universities from England and Scotland to secure its final spot.

The company produces Baotic, a dairy-free, high-fibre breakfast drink made from the super fruit, baobab. The fruit is sourced from the baobab tree and its extract forms a traditional Gambian drink used in celebrations and medicinally.

Isatou, who is about to graduate from GCU’s International Business (Risk Management) programme and originally from Gambia, formed the company with her partner, Paul Blackler, who she met while he was working with Voluntary Services Overseas in the country.

She said: “We joked about making our own drink from the fruit, and setting up a business, but it seemed like a very distant dream. When we saw the boom of breakfast drinks in the UK, we were inspired to do something about it.

“We have since developed a low-sugar, healthy alternative to other products on the market. With 55% of the UK actively buying ‘free-from’ products, and 15% of the UK lactose intolerant, our products are dairy free and vegan, gluten free, high fibre, soy free, low sugar, low calorie and zero fat, meeting many dietary and lifestyle needs.”

Hippo & Hedgehog commits a minimum of 10% profit to support community development across Africa and sources baobab through a charity supply chain that benefits local community harvesters throughout different countries and regions of Africa.

Isatou said: “Helping support a sustainable community and education is very important to us.”

The company has been supported by UHatch, GCU’s incubator space designed to assist entrepreneurial students, graduates and staff members. The company has now completed a four-month soft launch of its Baotic drink via farmers’ markets and festivals and has recently secured its first distributor for local stores in Glasgow. It is now exploring the wholesale market, which the company says the Santander Award would help facilitate.

In addition, Isatou’s company has also won Scottish Edge Wildcard funding of up to £10,000.

The final of the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award will be held in October with Hippo & Hedgehog one of 12 finalists.