Move over Krispy Kreme, there’s a new doughnut in town

British-Nigerian sisters take West African doughnuts from mum’s kitchen in Lagos to one of the UK’s biggest supermarkets

From left to right: Marianne Olaleye (29) and Yossie Olaleye (30) hold up boxes of the Mix and Match ‘puff puff’

A team of sisters who founded Puff Puff Ministry, the UK’s first-ever West African doughnut business, were invited to pitch their innovative products for a chance to win a contract to supply one of the UK’s biggest supermarkets, Aldi Stores Ltd.

Their pitch will appear in the fifth episode of the second series of Aldi’s Next Big Thing, described as Channel 4’s version of Dragons’ Den and Masterchef. The show returned to screens on 2 April 2024 and will be aired every Tuesday until May 2024.

Hosted by Anita Rani and Chris Bavin, Aldi’s Next Big Thing sees small, independent food and drink businesses pitch their ideas to Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK. Each week, six entrepreneurs compete in different categories for the opportunity to be stocked on the shelves of Aldi’s 1,000 stores.

Like doughnuts, but better…

‘Puff Puff Ministry’ takes its name from the snack known as “puff puff” in Nigeria and parts of West Africa. The sisters launched the business during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 as a “response to people’s desire to stay connected with friends and family while apart due to lockdown guidelines”.

Co-Founder and Creative Director, Marianne Olaleye, who is sister number three of five, said:

What we’ve done with Puff Puff Ministry is create a new dessert category in the UK’s sweet baked goods market. When we launched the business in August 2020, our goal was to change people’s perception of puff puff, known as a street snack that is also enjoyed at house parties or after church.”

“For us,” she continued, “it was a simple matter of innovation by presenting puff puff as a great dessert option, a special gift for loved ones, or a treat to share with work colleagues.

Their mission is simple: to make the traditional West African snack as widely known and loved in the UK as doughnuts, while carrying on their mum’s culinary legacy from Lagos, Nigeria to London – and hopefully some day, the global marketplace.

According to the sisters, there was no reason why puff puff could not compete with doughnuts, brownies and cookies.

The sisters pitch to Julie Ashfield at the Aldi UK HQ in Atherstone

A West African snack on UK supermarket shelves?

On the show, various business owners showcase selected products to the panel and receive feedback on areas for improvement from Julie Ashfield to ensure the finished product is supermarket-ready. They then have a few weeks to apply Julie’s feedback before returning to the Aldi HQ for the final decision.

The sisters have always been clear that they want their products to be available to thousands of consumers across the UK. However, when the producers of Aldi’s Next Big Thing contacted them to consider appearing on the show, they did not immediately say yes.

Yossie Olaleye, Co-Founder and Business Development Director, said:What makes our product special is that we spent 12 months doing research and planning every single aspect of the business before we launched. From day one, we knew we wanted our products to be enjoyed across the country; but we did not think that this would be through a supermarket. So when the opportunity came to pitch to Aldi, we weren’t sure how it fit with our growth plans.”

However,” she continued, “upon further reflection as a team and a consultation with our mum who is the reason the business even exists today, we agreed to appear on the show. And it has been a fantastic way to deliver on our mission.”

The sisters hope that their appearance on the show will demonstrate to Britons that there is space for puff puff in the UK’s dessert market.

So, will puff puff be coming to an Aldi store near you? Watch Marianne and Yossie on Channel 4 on Tuesday 30 April at 8pm and find out.

When asked what’s next after Aldi, the sisters said that they are continuing to deliver on their mission to make puff puff the country’s next big dessert. They continue to take puff puff to corporate offices and send boxes to customers across the country. Their next super goal is to open the UK’s first puff puff café for an authentic and immersive West African cultural experience.

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