Blog

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!”

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.”

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!

Moms holding children in home

Strengthening Business for More Nutritious, Affordable Food for Families in Kenya

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.”

flour on table

Ugandan Maize Miller Becomes a Symbol for Food Safety and Quality

 

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.”