When life gives you overripe lemons, you toss them in the trash. People are taught that if something is battered or bruised it’s usually bad. In turn, a culture of extreme food wastage has arisen. But Thato Mbongeni Masondo and Thula Ndema are changing that. Picking up the discarded lemons, the couple squeeze them and add a few blocks of ice and a pinch of spice – producing a thriving sorbet business in the process.
Across the world, perfectly edible fruit and vegetables rot. These scrapped groceries pollute the environment, and have become a significant source of methane – a noxious greenhouse gas. While working in Johannesburg’s bustling city centre, Masondo and Ndema would pass this problem on their daily commute. “We saw a lot of street vendors throwing away overly-ripe fruits,” Ndema says.
Taking matters into their own hands, they started buying the unwanted produce from these merchants at a discounted price. Then, they blended them into a sorbet solution too delectable to turn away. “Our first couple of batches tasted really good, but we were determined to perfect the mixture,” Masondo says. After getting the texture and taste just right, the pair founded Sobae and began selling their sustainable scoops on the streets of Braamfontein.
Today, the entrepreneurs have a permanent home in the Victoria Yards complex. Inside their store, unique flavours fuse. From banana and butternut with chai to tangy mango with a kick of chilli, Masondo and Ndema mix seemingly incompatible ingredients to create a match made in heaven. As self-proclaimed sorbet purists, artificial isn’t a word in their lexicon. During fermentation, enzymes are broken down into natural sugars. This helps to create a dessert that’s both guilt-free and environmentally-friendly.
While clearing their neighbourhood of food wastage, they have inspired others to harness their ingenuity and sweeten a bitter situation. “The experience has taught us to persevere and believe in our dreams,” Ndema says. For this couple, the secret ingredient to their success isn’t just determination, but heaps of passion and love.
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