Carrinho Group – Food For Thought

Marketing and Communications Manager Iury Rodrigues talks about how Carrinho Group overcame economic crises in Angola to become a vertically integrated food distribution company.

The Carrinho Group is a vertically integrated food distribution company in Angola, covering origination (agricultural work with local producers), transportation, processing, storage, and distribution. The company is family-run, with Nelson Carrinho the current CEO.  Before the company was established, the roots of the business began with Nelson’s mother Dona Leonor Carrinho. In 1993, she created a café in her back garden that became known as The Bar, working alongside her three children and her niece.

Gradually, the café expanded into a larger business as more investors came on board before becoming the Carrinho Group. In 2005, the Carrinho Group had become known as an established catering firm, with 34 industrial kitchens across Angola and an ambition to further expand.

A new vision

“Our company has faced two economic crises and this is what led us to reinvent ourselves. We started with a catering business. We had industrial kitchens around the country, as well as working on-site for our customers so that we could provide food for their employees,” Marketing and Communications Manager Iury Rodrigues explains. He feels that a communal will to push forward has driven Carrinho Group’s move away from a catering company to a vertically integrated food company. “We have been able to overcome some difficult circumstances in our country. We believe in humility and we stick to our roots, while at the same time embracing creativity and adaptability” he states.

Rodrigues is passionate about the Carrinho Group’s vision. “Our unique selling point is our vision. We aim to be the driving force for self-sufficiency and nutrition in Angola. We created a unique business model that allows us to influence all the stages of food production, covering everything from production, storage, manufacturing, transportation and distribution” he further states.

Overcoming challenges

One reason why the Carrinho Group has changed how the company operates has been economic issues that recently occurred in Angola. “After the first major economic crisis hit, we had issues with customers being able to pay. Normally, it would take between 60 to 90 days for payment. Sometimes this took longer, between six months to a year. When customers stopped being able to pay, this created cashflow problems for the company” Rodrigues recalls.

This then led to the first change of approach by the Carrinho Group. “When that business was no longer viable, we reinvented ourselves, providing logistics services. This allowed us to make our company more stable” he further recalls. “The second Angolan economic crisis prompted us to reinvent ourselves. We turned our attention to importing items such as rice, flour and sugar so that we could distribute food to our customers in the country. It was at this point we started seeing our company with fresh eyes, leading us to investments such as the industrial park we opened in November 2019” Rodrigues explains.

The right people

While a vision for a company is important, there is also the need to find the right people to facilitate that vision. “You don’t always know who the best employees are.  We look at what the market is offering and talk to the best available candidates. We make sure that when a candidate comes to our company that they can embrace our long term project” Rodrigues details.

Rodrigues emphasises that while technical ability is important, there is also the need for people who understand what the Carrinho Group is trying to achieve. “What we are looking for is for employees who embrace our vision, to fully understand and feel it. We can see who wants to be part of our company and we make sure all our leadership knows this. All our leadership team needs to share the same passion and show it throughout their teams” he explains.

This desire to get the right kind of people extends to the Carrinho Group’s investment in their academy. “Our academy’s main goal is to provide our workers with knowledge so they can execute there day to day work properly and also to help them achieve their goals personally and professionally”, Rodrigues further emphasises.

Future vision

In many countries, vulnerable children may struggle in class if they are not getting proper nutrition at home. In Angola, the situation is more severe, as many children have to work to support their parents. Therefore, the need to feed children is not just about giving them nutrition, but also ensuring that they do not drop out of school. “We are working with the Angolan Ministry of Education to address the high dropout rate in schools. We provide children with a highly nutritious meal at the start of the day. Proper nutrition allows children to focus and learn properly” Rodrigues states.

The food provided has been specifically formulated for the students’ needs. “The meal we provide is made up of a soya mash fortified with additional nutrients and milk so they can have a proper meal in the morning and will mean they will be able to improve their performance by being able to attend classes” he details.

The support the Carrinho Group provides extends beyond the classroom. “We are working with organisations who take care of orphans and handle other social projects for vulnerable people in the country. We supply them with food such as packages with our products that can provide them with breakfast, lunch and dinner” Rodrigues further details.

Rodrigues is proud of what the Carrinho Group has achieved, believing that this family-owned company will continue to build on its success. “We want the whole world to know Carrinho, where we come from and why we are doing what we are doing. We believe in the project, the vision and what the Carrinho family are trying to do. It started with Nelson Carrinho’s mother and the torch has been passed on to them. I believe our team has the same passion and vision that the board and the CEO has.”

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