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Kavagara: The Best Maize Meal in Kenya? Not Exactly.

Although Kavagara is praised as Kenya’s top maize meal, this post examines it from a different angle—specifically, its nutritional value. Ultra-processed maize meals remove the natural benefits of maize and add fortifications, but is that really enough to nutritionally match whole grain alternatives?

Who Owns Kavagara Unga?

Kavagara Unga is a product of Joy Millers Limited, a company founded in 2011 by Mr. Julius Chomba. Initially, Joy Millers Limited focused on maize flour milling and has since diversified into producing quality animal feeds.

Under Mr. Chomba’s leadership, the company has grown from a regional maize meal brand in the Central region of Kenya to become the best-recognized name in the maize meal market countrywide, with Kavagara Unga being one of its flagship products.

The Price of Kavagara

Joy Millers Brands | Kavagara
Joy Millers Brands

The cost of Kavagara maize meal is competitive, infact is termed as a premium maize meal in line with other brands like Spenza, Amaize, and Hostess; premium flours are normally superfine and heavily processed; reflecting their quality and the meticulous processing they undergo.

While the exact price can vary depending on the region and retailer and time of the year, it costs 40% more than the regular flour, still Raha Premium remains a popular choice among consumers looking for consistently, high-quality maize flour.

The Rise of Ultra-Processed Sifted Maize Meals

While sifted maize meals are what is used in making ugali in urban areas, (unlike rural areas where there are posho mills): In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards ultra-processed, sifted maize meals. This trend is driven by consumer preferences for extra-refined products, which are often perceived as cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing results. However, this shift comes with significant nutritional trade-offs.

Consumer Preferences and Nutritional Implications

Raha Premium Maize Meal | Kavagara
Raha Premium Maize Meal

A major barrier to the uptake of wholegrain foods in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa; is the generally negative attitude towards them.

A study of women consumers in a rural South African community revealed a preference for porridges made from commercially milled, highly refined maize meals. This preference is largely due to the smooth texture and lighter color of refined flour.

The same thing to Ugali here in Kenya, finer and whiter ugali is adored by many, and the grainy, yellowish brown specks from whole grain ugali and seen as low quality, back this with influencers promoting these ultra-processed maize meals and have more adoption.

However, the nutritional differences between refined and wholegrain maize meals are stark. The bran, the outer protective layer of the grain, contains approximately 86% of the fiber. When this is removed during the refining process, the resulting flour loses much of its nutritional value.

Ugali, a staple dish made from maize meal, exemplifies these differences. Ugali made from highly refined flour is digested faster, raises blood sugar levels quickly, and provides a shorter feeling of fullness. In contrast, ugali made from wholegrain maize flour is more nutritious, is digested slowly, raises blood sugar levels gradually, and offers longer-lasting satiety due to its high fiber content.

Final Thoughts

Nutritional Information | Raha Premium | Kavagara
Nutritional Information | Raha Premium

Having grown up in a Western Kenyan household, I understand the appeal of wholegrain ugali. Not only is it more nutritious and healthier, but it also has a richer, more satisfying taste. This may be a controversial opinion for many, but I believe wholegrain ugali is superior tastewise, nutritionally it’s not even a debate.

While Kavagara Unga is an excellent product in terms of quality and taste, it is an ultra-processed maize meal. To achieve the desired whiteness, the maize undergoes extensive processing, which includes bleaching to achieve that unnatural whiteness.

Despite Kavagara/Raha Premium’s popularity, I find wholegrain flour to be a healthier and better-tasting choice. The nutritional benefits of wholegrain maize meal make it a better option for those looking to maintain a balanced diet and enjoy a more authentic taste experience.

Whole Grain Maize Meal | Nutrigo
Whole Grain Maize Meal | Nutrigo

Personally, I use whole grain maize meals that are sold in the supermarket, they are rare but whenever I find those, I stock up. Soko by Nutrigo is a good example of a whole grain maize meal you can buy at the supermarket.

In conclusion, while Kavagara Unga is a top-tier product in the refined maize meal category, it is essential to weigh the health benefits of wholegrain alternatives. For those who prioritize nutrition and long-term health, wholegrain maize flour remains the best choice.

Related to Raha Premium

Grocery Guide: The 10 Popular Maize Flour Brands in Kenya: Worst to Best

Ugali Recipe & Guide: Step-by-Step Guide (For Beginners)

Recipe: Ugali Kisiagi (Wholegrain)

Ugali and Mala; The Perfect Duo Defining Kenyan Cuisine

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