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!”
In Kenya, more than 25 percent of children under the age of five have stunted growth, a side effect of under-nutrition in young children. Stunting is the most frequent form of under-nutrition among young children and if not addressed, it has devastating long-term effects, including diminished mental and physical development. PFS client Delish & Nutri, a peanut processing company that has been bringing nutritious, easy, and affordable products to Kenyan families since 2017, was looking to help address under-nutrition in Kenya. With the right processing equipment already in place, Delish & Nutri knew they could partner with humanitarian organizations to help supply local communities with a new peanut product that is a ready-to-eat supplemental food (RUSF) – bringing much-needed nutrition to children across Kenya.
In collaboration with international development organization TechnoServe, USAID, and PFS, Zahra Moaddab, R&D scientist at The J.M. Smucker Co., helped bring this new product into development. Together with a volunteer group of two other product developers from General Mills and one project manager from Smucker, Zahra and the team developed a formulation standardized to meet the World Food Programme (WFP) requirements and desired quality. The team also provided recommendations on process steps, equipment, and packaging needs, along with simple testing methods to further check process capabilities and product quality in the future.
“We learned a lot from the interactions with the volunteers during the formulation project,” said James Muturi, managing director of Delish & Nutri. “In addition to receiving the RUSF formulation, we further gained knowledge on product development so that our team can make simple formulations to the already developed product formula in case there are changes on WFP requirements in the future.” James said his favorite part of the project was when the team tasted their first test batch of the RUSF formulation created by the volunteer team. “The product which we made from peanut paste, milk powder, sugar, and canola oil tasted so good. I realized then that we have made it.”
“My favorite part of the project was working with team members from different companies from around the world, and collaborating toward a common goal,” said Zahra. “I highly recommend anyone interested in helping others, and further improving your own personal and professional development, to join one of these projects. It’s a rewarding experience for all!”
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.”
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.