Arimi’s is a jelly meant for tits. Cow teats. But Kenyan women, mostly lactating mothers, have taken to stocking the jelly common with dairy farmers who apply it on the udder of their cows before milking sessions.
And while the Arimi’s milking jelly was also used in rural Kenya when the petroleum jelly containers had been ‘licked’ dry by toughened rural fingers, trendy city women are now using it on their kids’ bottoms when not applying it themselves on their limbs. Never mind, back in the day, using Arimi’s got strangers asking, “Nani huyo ametoka kukamua ng’ombe?”
Originally conceived to ease the milking of Nguno, the family cow, the jelly is now a common item inside women’s handbags. They can hardly be persuaded to boycott it! Funny, the manufacturers have made it clear it’s for cows with instructions in Kiswahili stating, “Mafuta ya kukamua ng’ombe (milking jelly) with the picture of a cow for the illiterate.
Arimi’s was created by Hanish Shah in Meru County in 1983 after extensive research on the difficulties faced by small-scale farmers. It was meant to be affordable, but of high quality. Arimi’s is fleshed from arimi, which in Kimeru means ‘farmer,’ which has the same meaning in other Bantu languages like Kikuyu. The popularity of the jelly saw operations shift from Meru to Nairobi in 1985 and today, Arimi’s is manufactured by Tri-Clover Industries (Kenya) Ltd, where Hanish is the managing director.
While Arimi’s is meant for cattle, Hanish says it’s “formulated using the best quality of raw materials which are accepted under US FDA approval standard grade as safe to use on skin care, a slightly different formula in comparison to the normal petroleum jelly but 100 per cent safe for human application.”
Hanish reckons that the use of Arimi’s by people spread through word of mouth from the farmers and gradually, it has
become standard product in most homes as “we have never marketed it as a skincare product,” Hanish told The Nairobian, adding that since the jelly is made from waxes and oils “which have passed the BP standards, it actually prevents wrinkles by making a jelly film on the skin, trapping the moisture in and preventing its loss. This way, it keeps the skin hydrated and elastic, and can visibly reduce wrinkles.”
Never mind Hanish also manufactures actual skincare products like Rays Petroleum Jelly, which has been around even longer than Arimi’s, and Vital 3. But it’s the cow jelly that has an edge even as “our biggest client is still the farmer,” says Hanish. “We market Arimi’s as a milking jelly, so that is where our biggest market still lies.”
The popularity of Arimi’s almost saw Hanish marketing it as a skincare product “but there are a lot of factors we need to consider before we can launch it as such….we are working on launching a full range of beauty care products like lotions and maybe an Arimi’s lip balm,” offers Hanish who was born in born in Meru County, although his father was from Thika in Kiambu County.
An O-level graduate, Hanish, a father of three, owned a small retail shop selling clothes, but in 1978, he joined the family business and got the idea of creating Arimi’s after interaction with some German companies.