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Back to the Future – ‘SIMBA Chips’

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

Another amazing South-African brand that has been around since the days where we’d spot a friend an extra two bucks for a pack at the school tuck shop or spaza, is SIMBA Chips. Sharing is caring.

After my intro story of Ouma Greyvensteyn and her famous Ouma Rusks, I’m continuing with another story about this rather exceptional family. It turns out, Ouma’s company had a problem that other businesses could only be envious of – they were sitting with large capital reserves but had little to no idea of how to expand (imagine that being your biggest problem). So, in 1952 Ouma decided to send her three sons overseas for a change of scenery and no doubt to sniff out some big ideas. There they attended popular food fairs in search of any ideas that the company could apply to their growth strategy (diversification provides a great boost to brand image and company profitability).

It was in Germany that her son Leon, saw and tasted for the first time, a snack that had become widely popular in Britain and across Europe called a ‘crisp’ (big idea, lightbulb moment). Quite by happy, chance encounter, in the subsequent days, he then met with a man by the name of Herman Lay (no guesses as to who he was) turns out, Herman ‘Lays’ the foundations for what was soon to be the extension of the Greyvensteyn empire. Leon and Herman entered into discussions and exchanged some important information that Leon then brought home to South Africa. On their return, the sons filled Ouma in on their findings and she was thrilled with the idea brought to her by Leon, of marketing the ‘crisp’ under a new brand… but what to call it? 

After some thought and no doubt a few taste tests, ‘SIMBA Chips’ was the name chosen. SIMBA means ‘Lion’ (aptly names after her son Leon) in Swahili, which was the lingua franca spoken on the farms of the Cape by men who came down from East Africa at the time. It was in 1957 that the brand SIMBA ‘the king of snacks’ was launched into the South Africa market and besides the potato chip/crisp being a new snack, the novelty that SIMBA Chips introduced were the first flavoured chips (Unique Selling Point, USP). Until then, in Europe and the United States, crisps only had one flavour – they were being hand-salted by the buyer. The original SIMBA Chip flavours were Cheese & Onion, Tomato Sauce and Salt & Vinegar. Needless to say, the product and the brand took off and within no time, the original factory in Isando were producing packets of chips, going through tons of first-class potatoes and had set up a distribution network to ensure that the chips would be delivered to the stores, fresh (excellent product with maintained quality, standards and brand promise = customer satisfaction).

The Evolution of the Brand

Today, SIMBA the lion is one of our country’s most recognisable icons, the tagline, “Roarrrs with Flavour”, rings in our ears subconsciously when we see him or taste a new flavour. This is one of our treasures of our childhood – SIMBAchips were and still are a treat and appear in lunchboxes countrywide. The brand accumulated the largest market share with the development and introduction of other related brands namely: NikNaks, Ghost Pops, Doritos and Lay’s. In the brand’s 64 year history and with a 67% value share in the local chip market. Since the brand’s introduction to market by the Greyvenstyn Family in 1957, it has had a few owners, Fedfood bought the company in 1977, then Foodcorp in 1992 and the company is now owned by PepsiCo who acquired the brand in 1999. (Ouma sure knew how to build onto an existing asset to increase the value of her business and increase it’s worth). It was a small idea, improved on by innovative thinking and it turned out to be the greatest thing since… sliced bread, I’d say.

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.

Email me at and visit my website at

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