Group standing in front of building

Strengthening the Cocoa Value Chain in Côte d'Ivoire

In West Africa, where approximately two million smallholder farms are responsible for producing 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply, cocoa farming is essential to community livelihoods. Since 2017, The Hershey Company has been working closely with PFS client Tafissa, a woman-owned company located in San Pedro, Côte d’Ivoire, which is the sole wholly Ivorian-owned processor of cocoa in the country. “Hershey has been a great partner to work with,” said PFS Côte d’Ivoire Program Manager Caroline Bamba. “From food safety and quality to marketing and business strategy, Hershey volunteers have played an integral role in addressing some of Tafissa’s challenges.”

Last year, Hershey volunteers Marc Rinaldi and Rosaline Schilling started working on a cocoa bean processing and quality management system project with Tafissa. Both of these projects play a vital role in ensuring that Tafissa remains competitive in the cocoa industry and can produce high-quality and safe products. “Having Marc and Rosaline on these project teams is very helpful,” said Caroline. “Their input is making a huge difference in understanding operational issues and fixing them.” In 2022, Hershey Director of Cocoa Partnerships Tim McCoy had the opportunity to visit the Tafissa factory. “My visit was really insightful and inspiring,” said Tim. “To see firsthand the impact that we’ve been able to have as a company on Tafissa’s operations and to see the improvements in business is very rewarding!”

In addition to providing volunteer expertise, The Hershey Company is an important buyer of Tafissa’s cocoa butter. Since the first contract began in 2018, Hershey has purchased over 350 tons of cocoa butter. “We’re proud to work with great companies like Tafissa,” said Tim. “We’ve had a great partnership over the years and look forward to seeing Tafissa continue to grow in the future and achieve even more success.”

loose flour on table

Bringing Moments of Sweetness to Nigeria

For more than 40 years, Graceco Industries has been processing, packaging and distributing confectionery products across Nigeria. Known for their high-quality, affordable and delicious products, Graceco is on a mission to get more Nigerians baking. To build upon their strong reputation and provide more delicious products, Graceco looked to Partners in Food Solutions and their expert network for support. “Despite our decades of experience in confectionery processing, I knew we needed to strengthen our technical knowledge,” said Adedayo Oshinnaiye, executive director of operations and supply chain at Graceco. Together, Graceco and a team of PFS volunteers got to work on a shelf life extension project and cupcake recipe optimization project.

Overseeing the project work was Hershey Procurement Analyst Paul Brown. Paul joined the PFS volunteer network in April 2021 and a week later was paired with Graceco as their Client Lead. “Getting more involved with volunteering and the opportunity to learn more about another culture and new market while providing meaningful assistance to a growing company in Africa is what motivated me to join PFS,” said Paul. “Through my volunteer experience, I’ve been able to work with many great people at PFS, Graceco, General Mills, and Cargill, and have learned a lot about other areas of expertise.”

The project volunteer teams, led by Paul, were able to deliver amazing results. After several months, the team helped increase Graceco’s product margins by 10% and more than double their product’s shelf life. “Paul has been super helpful to our company,” said Adedayo. “He’s played a key role in helping us communicate our needs to the volunteer teams, manage the team’s responsibilities and project timeline, and even shared his technical expertise with us. Paul has enabled our company to move forward
and grow.” Graceco attributes the success of their famous ‘princess cupcakes’ in the market to this project and volunteer team.

Paul is still supporting Graceco as their Client Lead today and is currently overseeing several new projects including a baby food formula and a cupcake packaging project.

Women holding handful of corn

Feeding a Community a Thousand Miles Away

With almost half of its population unable to meet minimum caloric requirements, Zambia has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Many of the people affected are women and children. Omega Foods, a Zambian women-owned grains company, noticed that there was an opportunity to provide nutritious and safe grains, and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the area. Established in 2015, Omega Foods now produces several nutritious staple products including millet, maize and sorghum, and focuses on nourishing women and children in the community.

Supporting Omega Foods in their journey to produce more affordable, safe and healthy food is Hershey Senior Analyst - Growth & Strategy Lauren Hall. Lauren joined Omega Foods as their volunteer Client Lead in May 2021 and has helped oversee several projects since she began. “Lauren has been instrumental in making sure our projects are successful,” said Omega Foods founder and managing director Justina Opit. “I am so grateful to have her as our Client Lead!”

To date, Lauren has overseen the completion of a plant design review project and is currently managing a good manufacturing practices project that will improve Omega’s food safety and quality processes. “Our partnerships with PFS volunteers, TechnoServe, and USAID, play a valuable role in our success,” said Justina. “The support offered to me and my staff as we focus on improving our business is key to our growth. We look forward to continuing our partnership!”

headshot of man with glasses

Q+A with Hershey Sr. Director of Manufacturing Marc Rinaldi

Please share a little about yourself.

I have worked for The Hershey Company for 34 years leading manufacturing and supply chain operations in the US, Mexico, and China. I am currently the supply chain integration lead, supporting the integration of Dots Pretzels and Pretzels Inc businesses.

What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?

The opportunity to share my expertise and give back through mentoring drew me to PFS.

What was your experience like on your first PFS project?

My first project was a facility layout project with a company called Taste Cocoa Ghana. The project was relatively quick, consisting of a few meetings and reviewing facility layout documents. I was surprised by the ease in which Taste Cocoa Ghana and I connected, shared our backgrounds, and began having open dialogue about the project. It was truly a great experience. I have since worked on other projects and am currently supporting a project with Agripreneur in Zambia.

What was your favorite part of the project?

My favorite part was getting to meet all the people at Taste Cocoa Ghana and to experience their passion and willingness to learn. If you’re considering volunteering, do not hesitate any longer. The experience is very rewarding and we all have something to share from our unique experiences. I have already started my second and third projects and they are just as rewarding as the first!

Rounds of cheese on a shelf next to milk machine

Got Cheese?


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.