Kimani Rugendo: The Billionaire Behind The Popular Afia Juice

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Kimani Rugendo: The Billionaire Behind The Popular Afia Juice
Kimani Rugendo Image/Courtesy

By Isaac Blessings

When you walk into a shop, and other retail outlets like supermarkets in Kenya, chances are high that you will come across an ‘Afia’ or ‘PickN’Peel juice prominently displayed for sale. These products have become a household name in the country competing favourably with products of the giant soft drink company Coca- Cola. However-as many Kenyans enjoy these drinks, the question of who produces these products remains largely unknown.

Worry no more because in this article, WoK brings you the story of tycoon Kimani Rugendo, the man behind Kevian Kenya Limited – a company that produces these popular soft drinks.

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Kimani Rugendo Journey

Kimani Rugendo was the Chairman of the then famous Ford-Asili political party. In the 1992 general elections he unsuccessfully vied for the Langata constituency parliamentary seat losing to Raila Odinga. This temporary setback changed the course of life. 

He ditched politics for business and that’s how Kevian Kenya-whose first product was ‘Mt Kenyan’ bottled water-was born. He mainly focused on supplying the bottled water to tourist hotels in Mombasa as well as a couple of growing supermarkets in Nairobi. The was in the bottled water business for three years until 1995 when he was able to raise Ksh 25 million from their savings as well as help from close friends and family. With the money raised, they went into serious production and diversified to other soft drinks. 

Also Read: Billionaire Paul Kinuthia: From Hawking Perfumes to Starting Nice & Lovely

Establishment of Kevian Kenya Limited

In a bid to try and differentiate themselves from their competitors, Kimani and his wife through Kevian Kenya Limited decided to try their hand in the ready-to-drink fruit juice sector. They launched their first products Pick ‘N’ Peel and Afia brands that became a major success in the market.

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“We looked at what we had and the raw material we had was water. This got the company thinking on how it would add value to the water. Kevian has since established itself as a whole fruit juice company with two plants, one on Ngong Road and the other in Thika,” Helen, who is Kimani’s wife, told the Daily nation.

Also Read: Billionaire John Kimbuga Kimani: Ex-Squatter Now Second Largest Safaricom Individual Shareholder

The success of Kevian Kenya Limited

The company’s brand products are currently sold to as far as Zambia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Tanzania. The demand of the products kept on increasing prompting the billionaire to build a second factory in Thika in 2005 which has an hourly production capacity of 20,000 Liters of Peek ‘N’ Peel juices and 40,000 bottles of Afia juice per hour. The company has also diversified to produce carbonated variants of non-alcoholic malt drinks such as Energy Malt, Plain Malt, Orange Malt and Lemon Malt. 

On April 9, 2019, the billionaire secured a Ksh 1.3 billion loan from Deutsche Investitions – und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG, a Development Finance Institution owned by the German government). The financial boost has helped the company develop its own brand of coffee, tomato sauce and packed vegetable soups targeting middle-class shoppers and high-end hotels. The company’s factory situated in Thika is responsible for the production and is estimated to produce up to 250 tons of the new products every day.

Also Read: From Hawker To Owning Magunas Supermarket: The Story Of Mr Simon Wachira

Kimani Rugendo’s other businesses

Kimani is also the founder of Sterling Kenya Limited – a company that produces tanks. The company is worth over Ksh 500 million and produces 100 tanks every six hours. He also owns Sterling Craft Limited – a company that manufactures industrial equipment and military regalia. The company supplies berets, ceremonial swords and medallions to the Kenya Police and the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF). The company also produces pipes, fittings, generators and milking machines.

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