Established in 2010, Fastizers Food and Confectionary is one of Nigeria’s fastest-growing consumer goods companies. The company began by making sweets out of a home kitchen ten years ago and now distributes its products across the country to 26 different states and counting. To meet growing demand, Fastizers Food and Confectionary looked to Partners in Food Solutions for support in expanding their current production facility, from the parking lot to the processing area.
A volunteer from The J.M. Smucker Co., Christopher Ray, was tasked with supporting Fastizers with their facility design project. “I’ve been working at Smucker in R&D since 2016 and have worked within our coffee, Uncrustables, jams and jellies, and ice-cream toppings businesses,” said Chris. “I was looking for an organization in which I can use my educational background and engineering skills that I’ve developed
throughout my career to help in a meaningful way. When I heard about Partners in Food Solutions, I knew I had to get involved.”
Working with another volunteer from Hershey, Christopher reviewed the client’s current facility design and came up with a new design that would allow them to expand from one processing line to four while also ensuring the factory would be HSE and GFSI/FSMS certification compliant. “This volunteer work correlated with one of the projects I was doing at Smucker at the time,” said Christopher. “I thoroughly enjoyed applying my skills to this project and learning about a new company in a different country. Having the opportunity to network with other professionals at different companies was fun, too!”
Since the project finished last year, Fastizers Food and Confectionary has already made significant progress in expanding its facility. The updated layout is a significant improvement from the initial draft, and additional considerations for food safety, human safety, and the environment have been incorporated. Further, information on how dough temp affects the baking has been factored into the quality control program and the volunteer’s edits on the flow made it easier for the client to communicate with their facility architect on their desired plans. Fastizers Food and Confectionary plan to finish constructing the new facility by August 2022.
Born and raised in Morocco, Farah Varisco has a deep interest in unlocking Africa’s potential. Motivated by her desire to help others and use her skills for good, Farah, an analyst at The J.M. Smucker Co., signed up to support a risk assessment project with PFS client Seba Foods in Zambia. “In my day job as an analyst at Smucker, I can get really focused on my challenge at hand and forget about everything else that is going on around me,” said Farah. “Even being from modernized Africa, it can be a challenge to get the basics to people so I am glad I have this opportunity to help others and hopefully make their lives better.”
Seba Foods is an agro-food processing company specializing in the processing of maize and soya beans for more than 25 years. Seba works with its own network of registered smallholder farmers who supply the raw materials and supplement the crop requirements to produce a range of products including soya pieces, breakfast porridge, and corn soya blend (CSB).
“Zambia has its own unique challenges when it comes to threats and vulnerabilities so we’re in the process of gathering as much data as we can on their food safety and quality systems,” said Farah. “I typically do the analysis of our systems at Smucker and make sure we’re financially secure and sound. I’ve gone through quite a bit of a learning curve on this project since the country and products are completely new to me, but risk is risk and I am excited to be contributing toward improving food safety in Zambia.”
Although this project is not yet finished, the Seba Foods team has already learned a lot. “I’ve developed some good foundational knowledge around the creation and implementation of a risk assessment that we initially lacked,” said Teza Chika, quality assurance manager at Seba Foods. “A lot of information about how to go about it has been shared, to which some has already been implemented, but we are still developing the system to make it effective.”
The Seba Foods team said they’re grateful to have this opportunity to collaborate with PFS volunteers like Farah. “[The volunteers] serve as extra resources that infuse our work with the necessary experience, skill, and expertise that our institution may lack from time to time,” said Teza. “They bring about new ideas from their experiences that help our systems evolve to be more effective and we look forward to meeting with them every other week to learn more.”
Tell me a little about yourself and your role at Smucker.
I am a process engineer in R&D. In my role, I help prepare and run plant trials at our facilities. I am interested in making foods that are environmentally friendly and helping businesses improve food security.
What was your primary motivation for volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions?
I got involved with Partners in Food Solutions because I wanted to use my skills to benefit others and support a company that was committed to making food responsibly.
What was your first project like?
I worked with a client called Java Foods in Zambia that is committed to providing nutritious and affordable goods. I helped them review their equipment needs to make sure they were getting what they needed to expand their product portfolio to make cornflakes. I am familiar with the equipment, but it was fun to learn more about alternate applications for those machines which gave me valuable engineering experience.
Did you learn anything new?
I’ve been learning a lot since day one. I am learning new applications and how to work with people internationally. I feel better equipped to take on projects with international stakeholders after volunteering with PFS.
What would you say to a colleague who is thinking about volunteering with PFS but is hesitant to start?
I would highly recommend giving it a shot. The time commitment is about one hour a week and PFS does a good job at organizing the volunteers so you can focus on sharing information on your area of expertise. It’s set up so everyone can be successful!
Located in Ruiru, Kenya, Interfield Food Testing Laboratories (IFTL) is a commercial testing, training, and consultancy company that is committed to offering quality assurance and quality control services. It is the only laboratory that offers specialized testing of all food commodities and their derivatives across the food supply value chain. Since its inception, IFTL has been executing sales, marketing, and business development operations with no marketing strategy that guides the team towards a focused business approach. IFTL looked to PFS and its expert volunteer network to help with the development of a marketing strategy for immediate, short, and long-term execution of their goals.
Working with IFTL to create this marketing strategy were two marketers from The J.M. Smucker Co., Ali Brown and Lee Lust. “At Smucker, our culture is what truly sets us apart and we talk about our commitment to each other and everything around us,” said Director of Marketing Lee Lust. “PFS provided the opportunity to put this culture into action by kickstarting the ripple effect of helping others with the knowledge and skills to continue to grow IFTL’s business.” Ali and Lee worked with IFTL to refine their marketing strategy to focus on key growth opportunities and how to capture them. They provided a strategic framework for the team and worked with them to build out both the strategy and key execution tactics. “I’m a mom of two young kids with a passion for growth and development for myself and others,” said Ali. “My favorite part about this project was the opportunity to meet the talented team at IFTL, learn about the business dynamics in Kenya, and apply my skills to a new field.”
Since the project closed earlier this year, the changes Ali and Lee recommended are gradually falling into place. “We are certain that the changes will be realized by the end of 2022,” said Nancy Kariuki, a technical sales and marketing executive for IFTL. “Ali and Lee epitomize flexibility, adaptability, understanding, and cooperation, giving IFTL an opportunity to customize a marketing strategy that is suitable for our company’s needs. It was a great learning experience for us and I would love to work with this volunteer team again in the future!”