Established in 2003, Shambani Milk is a dairy processing company located in Morogoro, Tanzania. Shambani aggregates milk from roughly 250 smallholder dairy farmers and produces several products, including fresh pasteurized milk, sour milk, and flavored yogurt. The company has partnered with Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), international development nonprofit TechnoServe and USAID for more than three years, working on a range of projects from marketing strategy review to HACCP program implementation, ISO certification, and new product development. To further diversify their product portfolio, Shambani Milk reached out to PFS and its network of expert volunteers for guidance on developing a new product – mozzarella cheese.
“Adding mozzarella to our product line is important to our business for several reasons,” said Shambani Co owner and Director of R&D Florent Nguma. “Cheese is one of the highest value dairy products with a good profit margin and that is what our company wants to focus on,” he said. We’ve also seen an increase in demand for cheese at hotels and restaurants due to the growth in local tourism.” To support Shambani Milk with this new endeavor, PFS assembled a team of product development experts including cheese expert Gert van den Hoven from DSM.
Growing up on a milk farm and spending several decades working with cheese in various capacities, Gert was the perfect fit to support Shambani Milk on this project. “In my role at DSM, I help cheese factories create the optimal recipes for their cheese brands, optimize the cheese process, and ensure it is sustainable and cost effective,” he said. “I found it easy and enjoyable to contribute my experience and guide Shambani forward in their mozzarella cheese journey. For me it was a small effort, but for them it made a world of difference.”
Most of Gert’s previous cheese experience involved working with European cheese companies. This project with Shambani was his first cheese development project in Tanzania. The biggest difference for Gert was the scale and equipment available. “The differences in infrastructure required parts of the mozzarella cheese making process to be manual at Shambani,” he said. “This required a different approach and more practical solutions.” Gert also had to work with a more variable milk source than he’s used to. “The varying milk quality proved to be somewhat challenging, but everyone on the team was eager to learn and was motivated to address quality gaps and improve production quality. This made the project super fun and gave me motivation to keep supporting the client.”
Over the past year, the team has conducted several tests including taste, smell, texture, appearance, pH, and shelf life. “We’re very grateful for Gert’s support on this project,” said Florent. “We’ve learned so much from his vast experience and have been implementing his suggestions throughout the project.” Shambani and the team are still working on perfecting the recipe and are excited to share this product with the community in the near future.
Please share a little about yourself and your role at Bühler.
My name is Valerie Brunner and I am a project manager of lab analytics at Bühler with a food science background.
What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
I like volunteering with PFS because it’s a great opportunity to help improve the global food processing value chain and provide safe and nutritional food for everyone.
What has been your favorite part of volunteering with PFS so far?
My favorite part of volunteering is working with my other team members. The exchange between the volunteers, the PFS staff and the different companies, cultures, and countries is really enriching.
You’re supporting a lab set up project in Kenya. How is your volunteer work different from your Bühler lab work?
In my day job at Bühler, we have the opportunity to work in a fully equipped and functioning laboratory for all kinds of analyses. Compared to the PFS project, the client only had minimal equipment available. Therefore, establishing a full understanding of what the client needed regarding their processes and products was critical.
Did you face any challenges during your lab set up project? If so, how did you overcome them?
The greatest challenge for me was overcoming the differences between our labs and understanding that the client didn’t have access to certain items that I take for granted at my lab. Volunteering with PFS was a new experience for me and it forced me to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions that were valuable to the client based on their infrastructure.
Fastizers Food and Confectionary is one of Nigeria’s fastest growing consumer goods companies and is known for their premium short-bread cookies, biscuits and other sweets. The company began by making sweets out of a home kitchen ten years ago and now distributes their products across the country to 26 different states and counting. Fastizers joined Partners in Food Solutions in 2020 and has since completed over nine projects including product development, equipment installation, and recently an occupational health and safety project. Bühler’s Quality, Health, and Safety Manager Alan Galloway worked with Fastizers to develop their health and safety manual.
Alan has five years of experience as a quality, health and safety manager at Bühler. “I really enjoy my role and love changing people’s perception of health and safety,” he said. “I believe by better educating people around the world on health and safety (H&S), we can all achieve something great.” Working with his Bühler colleagues Lindewe Segalwe and Sorana Ionita, Alan and the team were able to learn about what health and safety means in Nigeria. Alan said one of the most interesting parts of the project was discovering how another country handles their health and safety, and what laws and regulations they have in place. “Sometimes we had to ask some difficult questions,” Alan said, “but overall it helped us create a better health and safety environment at Fastizers.”
Balogun Ismail Sola, a quality control analyst and health and safety officer at Fastizers, worked with the Bühler volunteer team to develop a H&S manual for the company. “It was quite an interesting and fulfilling experience working with Alan, Lindiwe, and Sorana,” he said. Throughout the project, Alan and the team provided technical support, virtual trainings, and helped identify gaps in Fastizers H&S plans where they could improve. Using learnings from the project, Balogun was able to develop a new health and safety approach that the company will implement moving forward. “For example,” said Balogun, “we will start doing continuous risk assessments and policy statements in occupational, health and safety.” The H&S manual will help the Fastizers align on all aspects of safety across the company so they can better control hazards and risks. Balogun said his favorite part of the project was the virtual training that Alan facilitated himself because it was incredibly helpful and insightful. He will take those important lessons with him.
With more than 35 percent of people living on less than two dollars a day, access to healthy, affordable and nutritious food remains a challenge. Food insecurity has been further exacerbated by climate change, COVID-19, and rapid population growth. Simba Foods, a flour milling company located in Nairobi, Kenya, wants to help transform the lives of low-income families by providing access to nutritious and affordable Kenyan staple foods. “Through a low-margin and efficient business model, we’re able to keep production costs low and provide affordable food to local families in our community,” said John Mwara, managing director of Simba Foods. “That is our core reason for existence.”
Working alongside John as a PFS volunteer Client Lead is Niels van Mossevelde, a downstream processing scientist at DSM. For more than a year, Niels has been supporting Simba’s mission to provide nutritious food by managing several PFS projects including one for HACCP implementation and milling line equipment optimization. “I joined PFS to broaden my view on the world, help others, and develop myself personally and professionally,” said Niels. “It’s rewarding to help develop project plans for the client that will make a difference in the local community, and a good opportunity to learn more about African culture and business practices.”
John said that working with PFS and their expert volunteers has enabled his company to achieve global standards in food processing, staff development, and management. “PFS has been extremely instrumental in allowing us to put in place HACCP standards and work toward ISO certification. We received peer review feedback that helped us identify gaps and make improvements.” Furthermore, the project uncovered the need for a long-term review of the entire business. “The foundation we are laying with PFS volunteer support will help our company move forward from a small miller to a medium-sized miller,” said John, “enabling us to increase our capacity and help feed up to 25,000 families a day.”
Located in Uganda, New Kakinga Millers is a maize-milling company that produces, packages and sells maize flour to the local community. The company focuses on the entire maize value chain by sourcing grain from over 8,000 smallholder farmers from across the region and selling maize bran (a by-product) for local animal feed. In an effort to improve their food safety and quality, the company reached out to Partners in Food Solutions for assistance with setting up a quality control lab that would allow them to test products on site and apply for the UNBS Q Mark Certification – a symbol of high quality products. New Kakinga Apprentice Devis Asiimwe said, “Having an established quality control lab at our factory will mean a lot to us. We will be able to store samples, conduct quality tests, house safety records and more.”
Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) assembled a team of food safety and quality professionals to help with the project. Joining the team was Bühler’s Thomas Ziolko, a product manager with experience in online sensor technology and food safety for grain milling applications. Over the past several months, Thomas and Allie Tobin, a quality specialist from Ardent Mills, have made great progress in establishing the quality control lab. The team has shared insights on how to use specific testing equipment, best practices for handling test samples, how to set adequate targets, and effective ways to communicate with remote teams. Devis said his experience working with Thomas and the other project volunteers has been a step forward for him and the company. “The volunteers have greatly uplifted the performance of this company in regards to good manufacturing practices, and quality and safety efficiencies,” he said.
The new quality improvements at New Kakinga Millers, including the lab set up and a recent GMP project supported by PFS volunteers Steve Berger and Sylvester Asiamah, have been recognized by the Ugandan government, and the company was granted a UNBS Q Mark Certification. “Being granted the UNBS Q Mark is a symbol of quality and demonstrates that our products meet the required safety standards,” said Devis. The new certification also increases customer confidence in the company and helps the company gain access to new markets making them more competitive.
In addition to being a rewarding experience for the client, the volunteer team also shared positive sentiments. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago, our company canceled most business travel out of Europe,” said Thomas. “I’ve missed having direct contact with our global customers and volunteering with PFS has been a great alternative for me.” After just a few team meetings, Thomas could already feel personal relationships developing. “Not only did I meet new people from around the world, but it also made me feel good to give back and provide my knowledge to a small company a thousand miles away who were able to benefit from it.”