Senegalese businessman Iny Samba is the co-founder and CEO of Le Lionceau, the first infant food company created entirely in Senegal. She previously held the position of R&D engineer at Danone’s Blédina, the baby food branch of French food multinational Danone.
She previously held the position of R&D engineer at Danone’s Blédina, the baby food branch of French food multinational Danone.
The businesswoman said that she has always been passionate about growing food. She said she was eager to learn how to create jams and preserves. She pursued an agri-food degree after earning her baccalaureate. She was then hired by Blédina.
She developed an interest in French events while working in France, especially those pertaining to the infant food industry. She recalls visiting Senegal and observing that every brand of baby food on the shelves of different supermarkets was imported.
Even though Senegal has abundant resources for nutrition, she told IFC Insights, “when I returned from vacation, I saw that 100% of the infant food in the supermarkets was imported.” “I believed we were squandering a chance.”
This gave her the inspiration to start a local company in Senegal that makes baby food. She co-founded Le Lionceau in 2018 with a classmate from agricultural engineering school with financial assistance from Women Investment Club (WIC), Hub Impact Dakar, and most recently Investisseurs et Partenaires.
Her company makes organic baby puree, compotes, biscuits, and cereals in 15 different flavors and employs about 20 people. Sales for the company, which launched in 2018, have increased fourfold in the past three years.
Samba told the BBC that they began Le Lionceau modestly, “very small in the kitchen.” “We tried out our baby food recipes there.”
She says that they assembled a group of over ten mothers and got them to test the dishes so they could provide feedback. Banana millet was the only recipe they initially tried. “We want to create a dish akin to the rouye (millet porridge) that mothers typically serve their kids.”
After giving birth, Samba said that she was motivated to develop new dishes for babies. Since then, she and her colleagues have created a range of baby foods, including papaya, mango, ditakh (a type of wild fruit), solom (a type of tamarind), sweet potato, and niebe (black-eyed pea).
Samba stated that the company’s expansion into the West African market, focusing on Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, is the next step after finding success in Senegal. The business is looking into cooperation with online merchants Amazon and C-Discount as well as the diaspora market.