Juka’s Organic Co. was established in 2013 by Juka Ceesay. After owning an African food market in the City of Los Angeles in 2008 for a few years. Juka realized there was a lack of authentic, pure and natural products in the united states from Africa. Her objective is to combine a variety of innovative items (Organic Red Palm Oil, Shea butter, Herbal Medicines, African Tea, African Whole grain and lots more) from the historic past of Africa to tailor them to fit today’s contemporary life while still maintaining the authenticity of these products.
Tell us how you got into the food / Red Palm Oil business?
I moved from New York after modeling for a few years, but when I arrived in Los Angeles, I realized there weren’t many African stores particularly for Gambians and Senegalese. Therefore, I opened an African gourmet store where we also sold red palm oil and many other African food Products. After a couple of years of having the store. People were really amazed by the quality of our red palm oil and the consistency in the quality. Customers truly appreciated the authenticity of the oil and there weren’t many great brands that offered the same. I decided to close the store to focused my energy and attention into this great oil and to supply it wholesale to stores.
What inspired you to create Juka’s organics?
After a few years of selling the red palm oil, I soon started envisioning “bigger and better”. I have always been a person that believed in growth and challenging myself to reach my fullest potential. I did my research to see what was lacking in today’s fast growing market in terms of pushing Africa onto the food and beauty map. It seems no one was really filling that gap. This is when I decided to create Juka’s Organic Co., where we import natural, organic African food and beauty products into the U.S to reach a mainstream market that women in villages of Africa could not reach alone. I wanted Juka’s Organic Co., to be a national brand, to have our products in almost every household throughout the U.S. I also knew that I wanted to have a social impact and not just a profit based business. We invest in women farmers in African villages that practice responsible farming by partnering and empowering them. In order to change Africa and make it a better place, our generation must be a part of today’s competing global economy. Many people are turning to natural remedies and alternative ancient medicine to heal themselves and stay healthy. We are proud and honored to bridge this significant and imminent gap.
What separates Red Palm Oil from other oils such as coconut oil?
Red palm oil has been used in Africa for many centuries as a healing medicinal oil to treat various illnesses. It is very potent in antioxidant, vitamins A & E. It has been known to have the highest levels of carotenoids outs of all plant foods. It also has all the families of vitamins E; tocopherol, tocotrienols which is prudent in obtaining the full benefits of vitamin E. The rich red color says it all. Red palm is fed a lot to pregnant women in Africa to help them maintain a balanced and healthy diet. This answers the questions without even going further. There is no other oil that can offer the same benefits to the body, even though I love cold pressed coconut oil and we sell that too, they are quite similar, but still very different. We have had so many great feedback from customers about how much it helped improve their cholesterol level, and other health issues that they were challenged with. It is truly a remarkable oil to say the least.
Does the flavor make a difference in recipes?
In terms of flavor, red palm has a nuttier and a slight smoky taste which can be delicious with the right food. Although you cannot add red palm oil to everything, especially sweet foods, it is very complimentary with savory foods. We have some delicious recipes on our website and videos that can help you to understand the do’s and don’ts of red palm oil.
How do you use it?
Red palm oil taste great with foods that have spices or herbs, it really adds a good rich flavor to food. And my advice to those that don’t like exploring in the kitchen, it’s usually best to add it to food right before eating given you warm it up together with the food. For example, if you have cooked beans or a bean recipe, it’s a wonderful idea to add few spoons of red palm to it, right when you are done with cooking. You can add it to pesto sauce and serve it over chicken and pasta. It’s delicious with quinoa or even rice. It’s also amazing with sautéed veggies or tofu. You can really have fun with it, if you stick with the savory foods and flavors.
Where does Red Palm Oil come from? Tell us about the villages.
I am so glad you ask this; red palm oil comes from Africa. It is indigenous to Africa and nowhere else in the world. Many centuries ago the seeds were taken to different parts of the world particularly Asia to replant and grow them, but it’s not the same quality. I always say we cannot duplicate Mother Nature without side effects. Not only is the quality different, even if it’s labeled as organic, it also has very detrimental effects on the environment. They have destroyed thousands of acres, causing deforestation and endangering wildlife especially the orangutans, it is truly sad and frustrating. However, in Africa, since the palm fruit naturally grows in the forest, it is sustainable and we do not endanger wildlife nor do we involve in deforestation. Everything is in the wild and the oil is ethnically harvested every 3 to 4 months in the villages by the women we have partnered with.
How is Juka’s Red Palm Oil helping those communities and women?
Our company has given these women tremendous business opportunities. Most of our partners didn’t have any work or had very minimal incomes prior to our partnership. A lot of them always sold red palm oil in their small community markets in the villages, this can sometimes take months for them to sell the oil locally. And sometimes they don’t harvest that much fruits and it goes to waste because they are often afraid that there will be excess supply in the market with no returns. They cannot climb the trees to get the fruits, so they usually pay men to do that for them and having excess supply of the oil without buyers can create a loss instead of profit. Once we started working with these women as partners, they no longer have to sit in the market months at a time to try to sell their products without a guarantee of purchase. Red palm oil is their main source of income in these villages. Each generation of women produce their red palm and pass it on to the next. Our company works with these women every season and this makes life much easier for them. It is truly humbling every time the season comes around and I’m able to visit to see our women partners. They are always happy and filled with joy about what we are doing together, their praises and songs of gratitude, melts my heart. This is what Africa needs, partners not handouts. They have so much to offer to the world they just need the opportunity to do it with dignity.
What is being sold at Walmart mean to your company? Where else can people find your products?
Walmart has truly stepped up beyond my wildest dreams. To give a woman with a vision that wants to uplift a whole village, and beyond that the continent of Africa, means the world to me. I don’t think they understand what this is. Because we all know there is no other market place with the number of attractions as Walmart. This will expand our business and touch more Africans in the villages, it will help change their future and for many generations to come. I know it’s hard for many corporations to do business in Africa, because it takes another African to understand them and to be able to work hand in hand with them and we at Juka’s Organic are here for that. We want to make these healthy, natural food and beauty products accessible to mainstream markets. Today, we are happy to say you can find our products in natural food stores in California, New York, Texas, Las Vegas and many other states across the U.S.
What can we expect from Juka’s Organics in 2018?
Expect the same authentic quality that you have been getting. Quality is the key for us. There are many companies that sell red palm oil and some of the other products we sell, but the difference is in the quality. We work very closely with our partnership in Africa to ensure the quality is always premium to keep our customers coming back. And speaking of coming, we have a lot of excited new products in the works. Just like the amazing red palm sauce we launched in 2017 that everyone loves and can’t get enough off. We have so much coming up so we are truly exuberant and thrilled to share it with our loyal and supportive customers.