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It all began in the year 1939 in the small Eastern Cape town of Molteno.  The effects of the Great Depression had brought many communities to their knees.

It was at this time that Ouma Greyvensteyn and her friends attended a church meeting where ways in which to help mission work were discussed.  Like in the Gospel, the women were given half-a-crown each to use their talents.

Then it came to her - using just one half-crown, the time-honoured family recipe and her home cooking talents, she baked her rusks to sheer perfection, which she then sold to the visiting farmers' wives in the community.  Within days, orders were pouring in for Ouma's delicious rusks. From the humble beginnings of a half crown venture, Ouma emerged as South Africa's most famous baker.

Orders were soon received from as far afield as Johannesburg and Ouma's husband, Thys became known as Thys Beskuitjies amongst the locals of the Stormberg. He also held the position as Mayor of Molteno for 21 years.

Ouma Greyvensteyn remained personally involved in the operation for many years, a remarkable person who since her younger years had actively participated in Molteno's cultural and art activities. Her dream of a large rusk factory with oven chimneys seen against the horizon later became a reality and today, having expanded extensively from its humble beginnings, the Ouma factory is still situated on the farm Friedenheim, just outside Molteno.

Though Ouma Greyvensteyn lived to the ripe old age of 98 and passed away in 1989, her name lives on in thousands of households. Originally sold as Outspan Rusks, such was the success of the business that the family decided to look around for more opportunities. Visiting America in 1995, Leon Greyvensteyn met Herman Lay, a pioneer of the potato chip or crisp industry and founder of Lay's, one of the major manufacturers of crips in the world. Bringing the process to South Africa in 1956 led to the formation of Simba Chips, Simba being the Swahili word for Lion. For many years, Outspan Rusks, later named Ouma Rusks, were produced and marketed as a Simba product.

A household name; a true South African icon, adored locally and eagerly sought after by South Africans living abroad, Ouma Rusks are so entrenched in our national culture that in another 60 years we will probably still be saying: “Dip 'n Ouma, dip 'n Ouma.”

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How a private-public partnership saved the historic Eastern Cape town of Molteno


When Elizabeth Anne Greyvensteyn first started selling rusks to her local community over seventy years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that her humble business would grow to become one of South Africa’s most iconic brands. Now employing over 250 people, the Ouma Rusk factory in Molteno is the lifeblood of the town’s...

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