- A canning factory in Limpopo launched as South Africa entered its harshest phase of lockdown.
- It produces chicken feet and necks – known locally as "walkie talkies" – in 400g cans.
- Despite lockdown's challenges and the tragic death of the cofounder just as the product came to market, the cans caught the attention of South Africa's biggest retailer.
- In February, the Shoprite Group approached Tin Stuf and agreed on a three-year exclusive deal to supply the retailer.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Canned chicken feet and necks are appearing on Shoprite shelves across South Africa, thanks to a recent deal with a young Limpopo-based entrepreneur who started his business during the height of lockdown.
South Africans know it as "walkie talkies". Chicken feet, heads, necks, and giblets – parts of the bird usually discarded – are grilled, or sometimes fried, and sold as affordable street food in townships throughout the country.
It's not a meal expected to be found on the shelves of South Africa's biggest retailer. But that's exactly where chicken feet and necks have recently ended up, in 400g cans.
Shoppers can expect to find, on average, six feet and three necks in each can, which comes in original or curry-flavoured broth.
The product was created by 26-year-old Eiren Drake and his late grandfather Spencer Drake. The two started constructing a canning plant in Tzaneen in 2017.
"As a young boy, I spent a significant amount of time with my late grandfather's employees, whose children were my friends and playmates," said Eiren.
"It was then that I was first introduced to the widely loved and consumed dish of chicken feet, which very quickly became one of my favourite meals, and it still is today."
The plant reared to life in 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic impacted South Africa. Its flagship product line, under the Tin Stuf brand, was produced that same year and sold directly through its website, WhatsApp, and Facebook page.
Just two months after Tin Stuf launched its website and its brand of canned chicken feet and necks started gaining attention, Eiren's grandfather, and canning factory cofounder, Spencer, tragically passed away.
"The unexpected passing of my business partner, investor, life coach, mentor, and beloved grandfather was, and has since been, by far the most difficult challenge that I've had to mitigate," said Eiren.
A year after the tragedy, Tin Stuf products began appearing at several Shoprite & Shoprite Hyper outlets in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, after the Limpopo canning factory received its Food Safety Certificate from the retailer.
In February 2021, the Shoprite Group approached Eiren and agreed on a three-year exclusive deal to supply South Africa's biggest retailer. This deal will bring Tin Stuf's canned chicken feet and necks to more Shoprite stores across the country.
It's also promising for the canning factory, which currently employs 35 people per production shift but is looking to almost double its full-time workforce if demand for the product increases. Some of the employees are the same friends who introduced Eiren to the street food of chicken feet and necks as a child.
"Today, they are the very people behind our innovation to develop a new product concept and our inspiration to follow through and attempt to launch it," said Eiren.
Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.
Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.