Back to the Future – ‘Ouma Rusks’

A short story and a lesson in Marketing, Advertising and Design by Claudia Folgore-McLellan creative consultant at visual 8.

Some of these brands have lasted decades and their success can be attributed to the novelty and demand for their products but what cannot be overlooked is the branding component – in today’s fast-paced, digitally dominated world, we cannot deny the tangible comfort we feel when we pick up the box of Ouma Rusks and know the exact satisfaction that lies within, but wait… pair that with a warm cup of Five Roses Tea from its’ precious little red box with flip top lid and you have a perfectly relaxing, afternoon break planned.

The topic of ‘branding’ can get a bit tedious if you’re talking about it from a technical business perspective, but everyone loves a story of success and when it involves a brand/product you have loyalty towards, that’s when it gets really fascinating. I’m sentimental, by nature, so finding out about and appreciating the origins of things, is second nature to me. 

Let’s begin with the story of Ouma Rusks.
Ouma, as we have come to know her, is actually Ouma Greyvensteyn. Her brand story begins at the height of the Great Depression (1939) and the little Karoo town, Molteno, where she lived, was very badly hit. You can just imagine the hot mess and misery that was.

One day, distraught by the severity of the situation the pastor at the local Apostolic Faith Church in the town gathered all the women of his congregation together and gave them each a half-crown with the intention of them using it to develop their talents. Ouma Greyvensteyn was one of these women and she decided to spend the money (start-up capital) on the ingredients to make her delicious rusks from a recipe she had that was handed down from the women in her family. Remembering well the Biblical reading by the pastor on ‘increasing one’s talents’, she prepared the dough and baked them in her wood-burning stove until perfect – yummm. She then decided to take her rusks into town and sell them to the visiting farmers’ wives. (initial target market)

In the following days, Ouma was getting inquiries and orders for more rusks (sales by word-of-mouth advertising) – the housewives loved that Ouma was saving them the hassle of baking their own rusks, nevermind that fact that Ouma’s rusks were absolutely delish. With the orders flowing in and Ouma’s production increasing (demand!), she found herself rather reluctantly, in business (lucky lady). In 1941 the governmental Industrial Development Corporation (South Africa) gave its first start-up loan to Ouma Rusks and the brand became part of Fedfood in the 1970s (funding). Since 1992 Ouma Rusks has been owned by Foodcorp SA (access to broader market). As of 2012 Foodcorp still keeps the original Ouma Rusks factory in the town of Molteno operational with 250 people employed on-site. (production)

The branding of the product has been carefully considered and developed with the changing times but still maintains it’s authenticity and warmth. Brands Like Ouma Rusks, that are considered to be everlasting are often born of stories of tradition, hardship or sometimes just a happy accident. They have moral values and pride and create experiences for people that are memorable and relatable. The slogan, ‘Dip an Ouma’ is something all South Africans, from varied generations, are familiar with – it’s connects us.

I don’t know about you but I’m just about ready for an Ouma Rusk and a cup of tea. Join me again for the fascinating story of Ouma Greyvensteyn’s son Leon who founded Simba Chips.

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If you are a solopreneur, entrepreneur or owner of a retail or corporate business and would like to know more about how you can leverage your brands’ potential, get in touch with me. I am able to offer retainers for clients who have a need for ongoing design, branding or advertising requirements at accessible pricing with payment terms suitable to your budget.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


3 Responses

  1. AaaaaaH. Taste is on the tongue dunker. It is an iconic brand but not my favourite. Too densely hard for me. I prefer what today is called a “traditional” rusk. Looooong ago the Trek rusks were my favourite. So long ago that even the manufacturers don’t remember it. Ouma passed the test of time. I love that they are still made in Molteno.
    PS: I keep my traditional rusks in an old Ouma Rusks tin. Don’t you love that irony?

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