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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My mom used to cry along while beating me -Sunday Bamgbose (Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology)

Sunday Bamgbose emerged from a humble home. According to him, he had every reason to miss it in life, but he held on to the teaching he received from his parents’ home back in Ibadan, Oyo State, in his early days. His friend who was also his neighbour had started taking Indian hemp while they were in primary school, but mom’s disciplinarian lifestyle, kept him in check. He aspired and became one of the senior managers in Coca-cola, a job that exposed him to lots of travels in and out of the country. There were temptations, he said, such that could have split him from his wife or made him to abandon his wife, so he developed a strategy!  He told us these and many more about his career and lifestyle, in this interview with PAUL UKPABIO.

The title ‘food technologists’ is not very common, tell us about yourself and who a food technologist is. 

I am the current Chairman of Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, the Lagos chapter, the biggest chapter of the
institute. The organisation is made up of professionals in the food and food-related industry. We have our members in different strata of the food industry like the regulatory bodies; for example, NAFDAC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, we have some of our members in research institutes like FIIRO and the beverage industry like Coca-Cola, Cadbury.  Wherever food is produced, you will find a food technologist there. Then also, we have our members in the academics.

How did you start out?
My background has been in the food industry. I worked with 7up Bottling Company for 10 years.  I later joined Lacasera for three years, and then joined Coca Cola International for another 10 years. Before, then, I had a stint with Standard Breweries at Ibadan.  I have over 25 years experience working  in the food and beverage industry. I left Coca-cola about a year ago to be on my own I run a consultancy firm and doing something in the area of agriculture.


What is your academic background like?
My basic academic background is Food Technology where I have HND. I have MBA from Ogun State University and recently finished my M.Sc in Corporate Governance from Leed Metropolitan University, UK.  Professionally, apart from being a member of the institute, I am a certified LEED auditor in safety and environment, putting systems in place. My work experience has cut across quality, environment, food safety, occupational health and safety regulations.

Did you set out from the beginning to be a food technologist?
Yes and no. Then I didn’t know anything about Food Technology. I was actually going to do Agricultural Economics for my higher education. But somehow, I couldn’t get admission into a school for that. And then in the process, the issue of Food Technology came up and I applied. There I discovered that it is something that I have always had a soft spot for.
However, people mistake Food Technology for Hospitality. They are two separate things. When we started this course newly, we discovered that there was a lot of misinformation about what Food Technology is all about and who the Food Technologist is. People used to assume that people who study Food Technology end up being caterers. I remember those days in school, our mates used to call us olobe l’o ni oko (meaning, he who has good food will keep a husband). They made jest of us.

However, it is a different area of study; it is the application of science and technology to food. It’s about food preservation. For instance, it is the duty of the food technologist to get meat that is prepared here to someone in Holland after a period of time. Also the case of Joseph in the bible explains it better.  There was a period when food was produced in abundance and a prediction of famine in the future. How to preserve what is in abundance in the present tense for the future is the job of the food technologist.

Right now in Nigeria, we are thinking of diversifying the economy. However, if you look at the loss we make during post-harvest, it is far more than what is consumed. That is why government needs to partner with food technologists to make food preservation and security a reality. Apart from preserving the food for local consumption, we are looking at that being a job provider for the people. It is in having value that you can really say that you are making progress in Nigeria. For instance, we harvest cocoa in Nigeria and we sell to some other people who go and add value to it, then we buy from them back in form of chocolate beverages and so on at a higher price than we sold it. Basically we have not made much profit from it. And unfortunately what we are talking about now is to produce food, but the value should be more on us adding value to what we harvest or produce. We produce oil but we import fuel, so we have to ensure that we do not do the same for agriculture.



If you were not in your present profession, what else would you have loved to be?
I would probably have been a farmer. I like things getting multiplied, sowing of a few seeds and later coming home with a big harvest. I am not surprised that I am presently being drawn to farming.

Now that you are going into farming, what kind farming are you looking at?
Basically the vision is for an integrated farm that will be into animal production and at the same time crops. But I am starting off with poultry, and as I master the art, then I can diversify into other areas.

Are you targeting agriculture because you think there will be a boom?
I am seeing it more in terms of solving a problem. Food is something that no matter who you are, you cannot do without food. To me, it is the business of supporting lives.

What motivated you to the top?
I may have been in the same industry but all through my career, I was playing different roles at different levels. At the earlier part of my career in 7up, I was more into quality functions and the latter part spent in the regulatory functions, registering the organisation’s products, getting permits and so on. When I was in Lacasera, I had overall function for the quality packaging and so on. At Coca Cola, I was playing a stewardship role protecting the brand and overseeing plants outside Nigeria like Liberia, Gambia, and so on. The role expanded beyond quality, environment occupational health and safety.

What’s the name of your organisation?
It is Sunfun Integrated Limited for the consulting arm, while the farming arm is Sunfun Farms Nigeria Limited.

At what point did you decide to marry and how did you meet your wife?
Funny enough, I met my wife while working in 7up; she came to do her industrial attachment there. But it didn’t happen immediately we met. She left and afterwards, we met again. Our love came gradually.

So are you still looking forward to working together with your wife?
(Laughs) That is automatic as it is, because she is a shareholder in the company but presently not working in the company. But then, one cannot rule out such happening in the future.

How about family?
I have three children, two boys and our last child a girl. It’s been very good, especially as I appreciate the faithfulness of God. I do everything within my power to be a good example to them and guide them in the right path.

But looking back at your career, your travels, how did you combine home and your work?
At a time due to the nature of my work, I was doing a lot of travelling. At some time at Cocacola, I was based outside Lagos and it was very challenging. Though the company tried to promote work and family life, practically it doesn’t really work out the way it is planned, but then you just make sure that you do your best. For instance, I used to come home for family time on weekends to see the family.

How about holidays?
Many a time I tried to take my leave when the children are on school holidays. Whenever we could afford, we travel together. Some years ago, the whole family travelled to Dubai and from there to London. For all of us, that was a memorable holiday; though my wife and I have travelled together more.

What vanities of life take your attention?
I am not crazy about anything. I am not a car or electronic freak and that is because I come from a humble background, where contentment was everything. I remember my parents telling my younger siblings that they thank God that they had me as a first born when there was nothing because I didn’t give them stress. I didn’t ask for more, it’s what they gave me that I collected. That is even why my wife loves me because nothing really thrills me or makes me go crazy. Even food, it’s what she serves me that is okay with me. Even when I travel abroad, it’s the local foods there that I eat.
I remember when I joined Cocacola and started traveling to cover plants abroad and these were places where they do not have locally developed food culture like we have in Nigeria. When you get to the hotel and you want to eat, you have to call the waiter to recommend something for you. The waiter gladly said I will enjoy it! But by the time they brought it (laughs), I couldn’t eat it. So when I’m traveling, I usually have beverage and milk that I can easily take.

Who influenced you most, your mom or your dad?
My mom has been a great influence in my life. We have so many things in

 

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