A tropical market in the heart of Norwich
Two years ago, Gilbert and his wife, whose origins are in West Africa, opened a shop in Norwich to sell products from African and Caribbean cultures.
Gilbert himself is from Cameroon and his wife is from the Ivory Coast. He grew up a Christian and they have now found a “wonderful Christian family” in Norwich at Surrey Chapel. “They welcomed us very warmly and we have been coming to church as a family every Sunday for four years now,” he said.
The couple run a physical shop in Anglia Square and an online shop. It is simple to order products by phone or through the website, and there is free next working day delivery for customers in Norwich.
The shops stock products from all over Africa, including countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, as well as from the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
The company is called FoodByCpc. CPC is short for ‘Cpa Croyabl’, a colloquial way of saying ‘Ce n’est pas croyable’ which means ‘It’s unbelievable’. “Though you may be far from your country or region of origin,” says Gilbert, “we know that FoodByCpc will bring you closer to the motherland.”
Gilbert explains the origins of the company: “Two years ago, my wife wanted to order some African food for our family to enjoy. Unfortunately, the seller informed us that he couldn’t deliver because we lived too far away from him. We were very disappointed and so decided to open our very own website where we would sell African and Caribbean food to customers everywhere in the UK.
“At first, we were limited to Norwich, but soon enough we signed a partnership with DPD which allowed us to send our products throughout the country. Some of our local customers would often come to our house, where we kept the stock at the time, and collect their products there. We were advised to open a shop where we could stock products and allow sales to be done there; and that is what we did.
“We opened FoodbyCpc on September 4, 2021, at 26 Anglia Square in Norwich. We wanted the shop to resemble the lively and busy ambiance of an African and Caribbean market. We bought a range of products and spices straight from Africa; such products are very rare in Europe and so elevated our shop.
“Once a week, on Thursday, we receive fresh leaves straight from Africa which we sell very well. It’s not just this which differentiates us from other shops; our shop truly is a centre of cultural exchange. Customers coming from different parts of the globe meet at Foodbycpc and share each other’s passion for their countries’ food. One of the best things about our shop is seeing the joy on a customer’s face when they find a product they hadn’t seen for years. Selling Afro-Caribbean products is one thing but being able to make customers relive their childhood and culture via taste is very special. Moreover, we get a lot of customers who are willing to try foods they had never experienced.
“One of our aims for the future is to open our very own farm in Africa where we will harvest our own leaves and vegetables. This has two major benefits: on one hand, we will control the process of growing and selling our products, from harvest to packaging. On the other hand, opening a farm in Africa will create job opportunities and employment for the local community. We have also set up a charity supporting African families suffering from strokes. Charity boxes are set up in the shop allowing customers to contribute to our mission.
“I was born in Africa into a Christian family. My family instilled in me a godly education and morals as well as a love for our culture and for the work of the ground. As a young man, I went to France for studies. I later worked as a managing director for a number of retailing companies. As part of a scheme to try to improve my English, I went to live in London for a while. In truth, I fell in love with England and so brought my family along with me. In 2015, we opened our first retail shop in London; Cpa Croyabl Fashion.
“My wife and I tropically welcome you on Monday to Saturday from 9:30 to 19:00 and on Sunday from 10:30 to 17:00. Eat exotic!”
You can find out more on foodbycpc.com. The website includes many recipes, such as fried plantain with fish, pepper soup meat, and attieke and grilled fish.
Pictured above is Gilbert and, below, some of the produce at the shop.