Meet Cindy Ruta, the brains behind ketchup, mayonnaise Made-in-Rwanda | the new times

It feels like a miracle to go outside these days and the sun isn’t trying to melt your brain. But when one walks through places like Ibuga City Promenade, formerly the car-free zone in downtown Kigali, where it’s quiet, green and a bit cooler, it gets better.

When I went there on a Tuesday lunchtime, everyone seemed to be going about their business. Some were sitting on benches, others were walking around, while photographers approached random people to ask if they would like a photo, paying a fee.

I was reminded that the schools are closed because several children were laughing out loud riding their bikes. There were a couple of tired looking women sitting on one of the benches, one nursing her baby.

Across the street was Fratteli’s Brussels, a Belgian cuisine restaurant that has been around for six years.

Hemmed in with vases of flowers and plants, the place looked busy with various roast chickens on display, one could easily tell they were preparing for a busy lunch.

Inside were two young men chatting as they made paper cones, probably for French fries, as this is the restaurant’s main delicacy, along with fried chicken.

I couldn’t help but imagine myself in Brussels due to the images of different places and monuments hanging inside the restaurant, such as the Manneken-pis, La Grande-Place and Cinquantenaire, which I imagine are famous or important in Belgium.

However, what is most interesting about this restaurant is that it is among the few that serve Made in Rwanda mayonnaise to diners.

But this only started six months ago, when they met Cindy Ruta, a Rwandan businesswoman who has made it her mission to reduce mayonnaise imports, but also to encourage people to eat healthy.

Ruta was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Rwandan and Belgian parents, who then left for Belgium years later due to the insecurities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the time.

He came to Rwanda for the first time in 2007 on vacation, when he had just finished high school. By then, she desperately wanted to enter one of the country’s universities because of her love for Rwanda.

“It was like a very big crush. When we moved to Belgium, we didn’t have our family around, but I was used to it because even in the Congo, they were mainly my friends. Our family was scattered; some in Burundi, others in Congo, and some stayed here,” Ruta said.

Mayonnaise Made In Rwanda that is currently available in Kigali. According to Ruta, its mission is to reduce mayonnaise imports and encourage people to eat healthy.

But when he arrived in Rwanda, it was different. She met his family and felt like she belonged, she said.

“It’s not that I had an identity crisis in Europe, because I also felt Belgian. But when I came here it was different; It was my home, and this is something that I knew since my childhood,” added Ruta.

She had to go back to Belgium after two months, but she knew that one day she would grow up and do whatever she wanted, which at the time included going back to Rwanda.

Ruta went on with her life, finished school, worked in the banking sector, then went to an import-export company, but none of that was satisfying enough.

“It’s not like I’m not seeing my life there, taking care of everything, which I am, but it wasn’t challenging at one point,” Ruta said.

Ten years after her first visit, she went back to planning her cousin’s wedding in 2017.

“We were eating a lot of kabobs and fries. I was wondering how I ate more French fries in just one month than in my entire life. Of course, we were eating ketchup and mayonnaise, so I thought maybe this was my decision, and it could be something to explore over time,” Ruta said.

She returned to Belgium with the business idea and traveled back and forth to see if it would work for her, and in 2019 she moved to Rwanda for good.

“It was a great thing. I met more people from my family, made new friends. I registered the company in 2019 and set up my first office in 2020. It took me almost a year to get set up,” she added.

His company, Saser Sauce, began with mayonnaise, his flagship and most famous product, and over time he created others, given his ‘obsession’ with cooking.

At the time of the interview, he was trying other recipes for more products that he wants to add to the shelf.

In his apartment he makes classic mayonnaise, garlic mayonnaise, tarragon mayonnaise, curry mayonnaise, and cocktail mayonnaise containing a little whiskey.

It also makes chive vinaigrette, tarragon vinaigrette, classic ketchup, and barbecue sauce.

Mayonnaise Made In Rwanda that is currently available in Kigali. According to Ruta, its mission is to reduce mayonnaise imports and encourage people to eat healthy.

Frederick Di Vita, the owner of Fratteli’s Brussels, told The New Times that he has been serving Saser Sauce mayonnaise to his customers for six months and they enjoy it.

“We used to serve the Everyday imported mayonnaise, but diners enjoy this one,” Vita said.

Ruta has managed to sell more than two tons of mayonnaise since 2020 and is already working with some restaurants, but the plan is to go bigger.

While this may seem like a success, it still faces challenges including market penetration and getting people to compare its products with imported ones.

“Most of the people I’ve met try to compare me to other industries. But this is mayonnaise, it’s not unlike what you find out there. I get that you probably haven’t met someone who makes mayonnaise like this, so it’s normal. I understand why they feel a bit reluctant,” Ruta said.

Another challenge is that people expect their prices to be lower than imported products, but she says that shouldn’t be the case.

However, those who have tried their products, not just Fratteli’s Brussels, appreciate them.

It does not use preservatives, for healthy eating purposes, and it is packaged in glass jars, for ecological purposes.

Ruta plans to add several products to her shelf, such as jam and onion syrup.

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