For Eutychus Macharia Kangarua, a Kenyan-born resident of New Jersey, last week’s Thanksgiving was one of the busiest in years.
His mobile phones rang multiple times as customers sought to confirm if their nyama choma orders placed online were ready.
This year, online spending on Thanksgiving Day broke new ground in the US with reports indicating that about $3.7 billion (Sh370 billion) was spent, the highest year-after-year sales increase since 2014.
The American spending spree dominoed into “Black Friday” last week and went on an upward spiral through to “Cyber Monday” with billions of dollars spent.
While Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday in the US, marked every fourth Thursday of November to celebrate a good harvest, Black Friday, the day after, effectively kicks in the Christmas shopping season with retailers traditionally offering staggering discounts.
Cyber Monday is a more recent phenomenon, marking the Monday after Thanksgiving Day when people are encouraged to make online purchases. The more reason Mr Kangarua kept his phones charged throughout the weekend.
Born in Nakuru but brought up in Nairobi, Mr Kangarua, 45, runs a booming nyama choma business in New Jersey.
Market trends have forced him to move with the pace and embrace technology to break even.
He now makes most of his nyama choma sales online, with his New Jersey-based Latha Foods Company shipping the ready-made roast beef, sausages, mutton, turkey across the US. “During the Thanksgiving weekend, I could barely leave my house as I was dealing with deliveries,” he said.
“On Thanksgiving Day on Thursday (November 22), I was online throughout because, first, it’s extremely cold outside, and second, most people were checking up on their orders and I needed to respond real time.”
While many Kenyans migrating to the US seek white collar jobs, Mr Kangarua’s nyama choma business has gained him fame and fortune.
He’s a regular at United Nations barbecues in New York, less than 45 minutes from his New Jersey base.
“Besides Kenyan mission events, I’m also contracted to make choma nyama for Nigerians, Ghanaians, Europeans and many other communities in New York and across America, along with corporate businesses and church events,” he said.
Mr Kangarua moved to America in 2000 after having started a small business at Nairobi’s Ngara.
Getting into the nyama choma business abroad hasn’t been easy, especially with the strict regulations set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and also by individual states.
Four years ago, his company finally received certification and business has been booming, especially with the permission to package his products with labels.
“It was tough getting through US certification,” he said. “We started by just doing barbeques for people, but we have not grown into specialising in large supplies,” he told Sunday Nation.
The company now has all industrial certification from different state codes, “and we are now looking to be like Indian, Arab, Jews and Asian businesses that have products in all supermarkets and shops across America”.
Mr Kangarua usually buys meat in bulk, marinates it and roasts it in his backyard in Somerset, where he lives with his wife, Jane, and four children: Esther (17), Peter (12), Emmanuel (seven) and Heavenly Joy (three).
He then packages it according to orders received from across the country.
“I package the meat after the barbeque and freeze it according to FDA guidelines, ready for shipping,” he said.
The clients would then defrost the nyama choma which would retain the original flavour once it’s out of the oven or microwave.
His menu also includes samosas, pre-cooked lamb, goat, beef and pork along with chicken, fish and stews - which are delivered on the United Parcel Service network.
The prices are competitive too, with a pack of 12 vegetable samosas, for instance, costing $34.30 (Sh3,430), and an eight-pack beef sausage delivery going for $67.45.
Marinated goat thighs, ribs or shoulders sell for $59.80 each, with all these prizes including shipping and taxes.
Orders are made through Mr Kangarua’s company website, www.lathafoods.com, and also via the company’s social media accounts.
“I have clients across most of the States with the exception of just nine — Seattle, Texas, Arizona, California, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. We also make the best sausages without fat or sodium,” he said, adding that the sausages taste like those in Kenya.
It takes less than a day to dispatch orders to nearby states like New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, with the farthest deliveries taking up to five or six days to states like Oregon, Washington and Utah.
And still arriving fresh.
“It’s delicious,” Dr Joseph Kimani, a Kenyan psychiatrist based in South Plainfield, New Jersey, chipped in as he ate Mr Kangarua’s nyama choma. “We eat it the same way we eat nyama choma back home in Kenya and we enjoy it with the traditional ugali.”
Mr Moses Kanja, chief executive and founder of New Jersey-based computer programming company, Khansoft, also a regular customer, concurred, saying it gave him a taste of Kenya.
Currently, Mr Kangarua is also venturing into the production of whole grain porridge flour manufactured mainly out of sweet potatoes and blended with millet and maize.