Nakhli Boughdiri, 46 is the founder of Bio Zelfen, a Kasserine-based company that produces prickly pear derivatives, such as syrup and vinegar.
As a native of Kasserine, Nakhli has always known about the benefits of prickly pears, the region's emblematic fruit. He drew inspiration for his business from his mother, who used to manually extract the syrup from prickly pears when he grew up.
Nakhli, an IT engineer by trade, founded Bio Zelfen in 2017. He started working on the company out of his family’s garage, using an extracting machine that he built himself. Before long, his prickly pear products took off, even winning a national prize for locally-produced organic products.
To build on this momentum, Nakhli invested in more machinery to produce prickly pear seed oil and vinegar, and brought on more employees He also moved the company to a new production unit. Today, Bio Zelfen also produces a range of prickly pear-based cosmetic products, such as shampoo, creams, and lotions.
The company first sold its products domestically to gourmet and organic food stores. To grow sales, however, it aimed to reach international markets, such as France and Germany, which required international food safety management and agricultural standards. In 2020, JOBS partnered with Bio Zelfen and assisted it to implement the necessary certifications.
The COVID-19 pandemic put new obstacles in Bio Zelfen’s way, however. During the health crisis, many of its customers suspended orders, causing sales to drop 67% for the year and 80% of its stock to go bad. To address this challenge, the company focused on producing prickly pear seed oil, which has a much longer shelf life. As the market recovered, Bio Zelfen succeeded in selling small orders of this oil to customers.
To further boost its recovery, JOBS awarded Bio Zelfen a grant to help cover its fixed costs and finance new machinery to extract and pasteurize prickly pear juice.
"The certifications and grant support were very important. They helped us create 40 jobs and resume export prospecting. Now, we will focus on developing fresh, 100% organic juice, and plan to invest in new filling and packaging machines to integrate the entire production chain.”
Founder – Bio Zelfen