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Volunteers Develop New Gluten-Free Product for Local Consumers


Born out of a love for providing their community with delicious, nutritious, and high-quality food, husband and wife duo Rajan and Priti Marwaha started Sai Energy & Logistics Services in Iringa, Tanzania. Established in 2014, Sai Energy and Logistics Services initially started as a bakery and then later diversified its product portfolio after realizing the potential demand for dairy products like mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, snacks like potato chips and cashew nuts, and other sweet treats.

After years of success in the market and gaining a deeper understanding of local and global consumer trends, Rajan and Priti noticed a need not yet being met locally. “After extensive research, we saw a window of opportunity in adding gluten-free products to our growing product portfolio,” said Rajan. “We learned that approximately 31.8% of Tanzania’s children under the age of 5 years are malnourished and 51.3% of children in our region of Iringa suffer from this. In addition to continuing to provide our current product portfolio of nutritious products, we wanted to develop new specialty breads and biscuits from gluten-free sweet potato flour to help solve the issue of malnutrition and create awareness of how to opt for living a better and healthy life.”

With limited knowledge in the development of gluten-free products, Sai Energy & Logistics Services enlisted the help of TechnoServe, USAID, and PFS to get them started. Joining the project team from Ardent Mills were Bakery Plant Manager Dewaine Schaecher and product developers Jerome Davis and Jacob Mattson. With 60+ combined years of experience in R&D and baked goods, these volunteers made the perfect team to help Sai Energy & Logistics Services bring their new product concept to life.

“Initially our team was a little hesitant in dealing with such highly experienced individuals on the project team,” said Rajan. “But by the end of the project, the transfer of knowledge, especially on the technology behind making these products, and the ease of communication between us and the project team became our favorite part of the project!” Rajan said that his team learned a lot from the Ardent Mills volunteers including how to measure the right proportion of ingredients, how to improve product shelf-life through monitoring pH levels of doughs, the right methods of mixing ingredients, and innovations and alterations of their existing methods.

Rajan said the gluten-free sweet potato project for biscuits has reached the final stage and has been accepted by consumers so they are now are developing strategies to upscale production. Additionally, the company is working on the product’s packaging design and they hope to launch the new product later this month.

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Q+A with Cargill's Eric Flanagan


Please share a little about yourself and your role at Cargill.
I work in the Growth Ventures team for Cargill Protein-North America (CPNA) where I am the Director of Emerging Products and Solutions. My role focuses on identifying, incubating, and commercializing new business opportunities in emerging spaces like carbon, digital, and e-commerce. I originally joined Cargill in 2017 straight out of business school with the corporate strategy team. I have also worked in digital innovation and startup partnerships for Cargill-Digital Foundry and in strategy/mergers & acquisitions for CPNA.

What was your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
Two factors motivated my interest in PFS once the opportunity was presented. First, I studied international development in undergrad and studied abroad in South Africa where I had the opportunity to support community development through entrepreneurship in a township near Stellenbosch. PFS’ dedication to capacity-building in Africa felt like a spiritual continuation of this experience.

The second motivation was my fairly recent entry into Cargill via its corporate strategy team in 2017 (around when I joined PFS). I was new to both the functional role, strategy development, and food/ag, and saw volunteering with PFS as a development opportunity that would help me learn more about project management and the industry.

What is your favorite part of volunteering with PFS? 

The two companies I have worked with (Kentaste and Full Spoon Limited) both operate in markets where Cargill has little or no presence (coconuts and peanuts, respectively), so it has been fun to learn more about both from the client company’s founders. In addition, both clients have needed help with food safety projects, which is a new functional space for me to learn at a high level.

What would you say to a colleague who is interested in volunteering with PFS, but hesitant to start?
Dive in! There are a lot of companies with projects that need the type of food/ag expertise companies like Cargill can provide.

Bühler Networking Days Returns In Person

Bühler Networking Days Returns In Person

PFS staff members meet with DSM volunteers in Switzerland
Miraj Shah, co-founder and director of Crofts Limited in Kenya, connects with leaders from Ardent Mills and Hershey
PFS welcomed two new volunteers from Cargill
PFS hosted a volunteer info session with prospective volunteers from the Cargill Schiphol office in Amsterdam
From left to right: Nana Antwi Owusu-Ansah (PFS), Andy Sharpe (Bühler), Miraj Shah (Crofts Limited), and Jimmy Bettcher (PFS)

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Congratulations to Our 2022 PFS Service Award Winners!


At PFS, partnership is a foundational component of who we are and what makes us sucessful. Every year, we honor several individuals who embody the qualities of our founders, John Mendesh and Peter Erickson. These awards go to people who most demonstrate enthusiasm, drive for results, employ creative problem solving, and show tenacity, grit, wisdom, and humility. Please join us in celebrating our fourth annual PFS Service Award winners… 


John Mendesh Award


Gloria Otto, Partners in Food Solutions Program Associate – Ghana 

"Gloria is never not smiling, even when the work can be stressful or unpredictable. She oversees a difficult portfolio, but she never shows frustration. Instead, she is focused on how to solve the problem in a way that is achievable and supported by the most people. She does not give up and always has a warm attitude through it all." - PFS Staff Member


Niels Van Mossevelde, DSM Associate Scientist II – Netherlands

"Niels has been an active Client Lead for a while now. He has supported the client with very minimal staffing resources and has been very patient with the client even at their busiest times. He has always joined the project calls with a smile on his face and helped provide solutions to the client apart from leading calls.” - PFS Staff Member


Peter Erickson Award


Eleanor McSweeney, Bühler Business Development Manager – Switzerland

"Eleanor served as a Client Lead for our client in Côte d’Ivoire. She served as a formidable translator, project manager, and always reverted to the team with ideas to overcome project challenges. She worked extremely hard and developed an excellent rapport with the project team to ensure that the client completed their HACCP and Yield Increase Project. She was also prompt with communication and would close projects immensely well. - PFS Staff Member 


Dan Dietz, Smucker Director of Engineering & Technical Services – USA 

“Dan has been one of the most active Smucker volunteers since they joined PFS. He has already volunteered on three different services and shown so much commitment to the work. He has been patient and understanding and willing to stay on and support a client even while there was political unrest in Ethiopia causing major delays with his client. He offers so much expertise and guidance in the areas of process optimization and product formulation and he does it with grace and humility." - PFS Staff Member



A Letter From Jeff

As we closed our fiscal year in May and officially launched our 15th (!) year, our team, and many observers, believe that our work has never been more important than it is at this particular moment. With the uncertainty of two years of a global pandemic, growing inflation and now war in a region of the world that is critical to supplying much of the food, fertilizer and fuel that Africa needs, assisting local food production across the continent has never been more urgent. 
Last year we launched a new strategy that called for going deeper in our support of high potential African food companies. This means offering a broader menu of services to strengthen their foundation and support their growth. I'm happy to report our new strategy is already bearing fruit. This year, despite volatility in the global system, these high-potential clients saw a median growth rate of 21.9%  in their revenue and utilized an average of three PFS services during the year. 
To bring our vision to reality, we are fortunate to have both a seasoned leadership team based in both the US and Africa (averaging over 5 years with PFS) and a growing team of new African colleagues with the expertise we need to add value to clients and support our wonderful corporate volunteers. 
Our volunteers continue to show up for clients with best-in-class expertise - we had a record year of engagement with more than 672 employees from General Mills, Cargill, DSM, Bühler, The Hershey Company, Ardent Mills and The J.M. Smucker Co., sharing their time and expertise with clients, providing thousands of hours of support uniquely tailored to their specific business needs. Again this year, our volunteers have told us how much they value their PFS experience with a 91% satisfaction rate on our annual survey.  The direct and tangible impact of working to improve the food value chain in Africa is what makes this experience so valuable to volunteers. Jayd Kittleson of Cargill said  “I keep volunteering because I am inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of PFS clients and their passion for being better.”
A true measure of the value of the expertise we provide is the growing demand for volunteer support - up 34% last year - and our clients continued high satisfaction rate (94%). Adedayo Oshinnaiye of Graceco Industries in Nigeria told us, ”After several months, the team helped increase Graceco’s product margins by 10% and more than doubled our product’s shelf life.”
It's stories like these that illustrate the meaningful, relatively quick impact our volunteer experts can have on a company's bottom line, leading to development and resilience in the local food supply in the countries where we work. 
I was just on a call this week to discuss the overlapping crisis - conflict, climate shocks and covid - that have led to a spike in ingredient costs for processors and double-digit food price increases. Consumers in Africa, especially the millions of families living in extreme poverty, cannot absorb those increases. As I write this, the World Food Program has issued its highest alert for 'catastrophic' levels of hunger for two of the countries where we work, Ethiopia and Nigeria. Our work to strengthen local producers is an important element in creating sustainability and resilience in those food ecosystems. PFS has never been more important. 
Thank you to all of our clients, volunteers, partners and staff for your devotion to a more food-secure future for Africa and beyond.