For the 7th issue of the esteemed Food Safety Africa Magazine, our team had the privilege of interviewing Manasses Njuguna, currently the Head of Quality Assurance and Production Lead at Wedgehut Foods Ltd. and learning about his professional journey in Kenya’s thriving food industry.
Established in 2021, Wedgehut Foods Ltd focuses on the value addition of potatoes. The company sources potatoes from farmers across Keya and processes them into various cuts including chips, wedges, and cubes.
As the head of quality, it’s Manasses responsibility to ensure all products leaving the Wedgehut processing facility in Ruiru are safe and of the right quality. His main responsibilities include managing customer complaints, coordinating operations planning, writing reports on activities, challenges, and recommendations, and conducting team training.
Manasses, a Food Technology and Quality Assurance degree graduate from the Technical University of Mombasa describes himself as “an individual who is always willing to learn and relearn” and values consistency, resilience, and teamwork. Seeing that he holds an esteemed role in his organization, Manasses credits flexibility, the ability to work with cross-teams, quick decision-making, food analysis skills, time consciousness, and, most importantly, the ability to listen to a multitude of instructions at any given moment as some of the most critical skill sets for achieving success in his role. While Manasses did not always aspire to pursue a career in food science, he acknowledges that his pursuit of excellence and near perfection has led him to his current role.
“I grew up as a kid who always wanted to be the best. This led me to pursue technical subjects in my education journey and eventually led me to the life of being a food scientist,” Manassess explains.
Today, he plays a pivotal role in the company, ensuring food safety in its operations and contributing to its overall success while also working on advancing his career in food technology and quality assurance. While at Wedgehut Foods Ltd, Manasses has had the privilege of steering the company towards receiving the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) standardization mark and ISO 22000:2018 certification.
Manasses also explains that the company works closely with all stakeholders involved to continually improve processes and products, ensuring that their customers receive the highest quality products the company offers.
As the head of quality assurance, Manasses is concerned about more than just the productivity of the processes that take place in his organization. His priority is the quality and safety of the food that Wedgehut Foods Ltd. produces. Therefore, he is committed to ensuring that the organization has a strong safety culture in place to guarantee the highest level of safety and quality for the company’s products. His team aims to address one of the most significant challenges in quality assurance in the food industry, which is the absence of traceability.
“We have implemented a traceability chain that allows us to track the sourcing of materials and the products sold to our clients,” Manasses explains.
The company’s management also conducts regular training programs for its staff, sensitizing them on the importance of food safety. This sometimes involves engaging consultants from the food industry to assist them in streamlining its processes.
Manasses’ role also involves a lot of troubleshooting, requiring him to lead his team in solving both regular and complex challenges as soon as they arise. He explains that ensuring quality, timeliness, sourcing, and even manpower are significant challenges during production, and achieving the desired outcome is an uphill climb. His role also requires him to establish systems and processes to ensure that all the factors of production meet the necessary requirements for producing a high-quality final product.
“We have a team of trained staff members who understand the importance of delivering the right product to our clients. We have developed a strategic plan to facilitate the growth and delivery of the necessary raw materials, specifically potatoes. This plan aims to streamline our action points and ensure proper documentation of all our processes. By doing so, we can identify any deficiencies in our system and promptly implement corrective actions.”
Manasses believes that his role at Wedgehut aligns with his career goals as a food scientist, and he sees every day as an opportunity to learn and enhance his skills. Apart from honing his expertise as a quality assurance expert, his company has provided him with the opportunity to enhance his skills in food technology, value addition, and food analysis. It has also helped him develop his interpersonal skills and training abilities.
Limits only exist in the mind. Pursue your goals with all your strength, and you will surprise yourself in countless ways.
Manasses Njuguna – Head of Quality Assurance and Production Lead at Wedgehut Foods Ltd
“On a typical day, I check customer feedback and respond accordingly. I also review processes and systems, conduct training sessions, visit clients when necessary, and provide daily progress reports on quality assurance.”
This is Manasses’s first major role in the food industry, and it has provided him with a platform to utilize his technical skills in a manner that contributes positively to the company he is employed. However, he appreciates the roles that the internships he sought prior to this position have contributed to his career.
“In all the positions I have held, I have consistently been assigned reporting responsibilities, conducting analysis, leading teams, communicating with suppliers, and occasionally interacting with clients. These critical roles prepared me in one way or another in my career.”
Now, he has a role that he enjoys immensely. One that allows him to take part in critical decision-making processes that significantly affect the company’s success in delivering on its agenda.
“People trust my decision-making process and believe that I will consistently deliver the best products to them on a daily basis.”
He acknowledges that his family is a major source of motivation when it comes to navigating his workplace and the challenges it sometimes presents.
“My dad and mom have always been my number one fans, constantly motivating me to be a better version of myself. Their unconditional support throughout my highs and lows has been remarkable.”
Manasses also acknowledges the role that his mentors play in advancing his career in the food industry. He remarks that they challenge him to become the best version of himself.
Like every job, Manasses’s role is not without its challenges. While he works to ensure a good rapport with his teammates, he prioritizes the quality of the food that the company produces above all else.
“People often feel like I am on their necks during the implementation of policies and execution of tasks. Sabotage occurs from time to time, and one of the major challenges I face on a daily basis is dealing with individuals who lack the same technical knowledge as me. I always strive to build rapport among the team, educate them on the importance of delivering high-quality products to clients, and provide a supportive environment for any questions they may have.”
Manasses indulges in interesting and oddly specific hobbies to unwind. He enjoys watching football, reading food articles, watching documentaries about dairy farming, and staying over at a friend’s place to watch movies.
“These activities help me reflect, restructure my thinking, free my mind, and make sound decisions for the future.”
Going forward, this young professional aims to promote value-added products as a means of addressing malnutrition and meeting international standards for the production of safe and nutritious foods.
“I hope to become a full-time dairy farmer in the near future. It is one of my main projects outside of work. Additionally, I aspire to fulfill my dream of pursuing a master’s degree in human nutrition.”
Manasses advises anyone considering a career in food science to always maintain a positive attitude, be proactive, stay humble, and strive for excellence.
“Limits only exist in the mind. Pursue your goals with all your strength, and you will surprise yourself in countless ways.”