Faffa Foods, a fortified maize flour company, wants to play a leading role in tackling malnutrition in Ethiopia. Known for their nutritious baby food products, Faffa Foods wanted to expand their product portfolio and provide more nutritious products to their community and beyond. Dealing with limited resources, further exacerbated by the pandemic, Faffa Foods turned to PFS and TechnoServe for technical assistance. Tasked with developing an enriched snack bar were General Mills volunteers Jeff Enz and Moses Khamis. Jeff, a R&D veteran with over 25 years of experience at General Mills, and Moses, a senior extrusion engineer from Uganda who joined the company earlier this year, were the perfect fit for the job.
“I love food science and really like sharing my passion and knowledge with others,” said Jeff. “It is fun to support young companies in emerging marketing with new food offerings and technology.” Jeff and Moses were able to share their ingredient knowledge, experimental design experience, and processing expertise to advise Faffa Foods on the development of their new grain-based snack bar. “It was interesting to learn about the different challenges companies like Faffa Foods face in regards to innovation,” said Moses. “They are constrained by numerous challenges but with the right mindset can come up with unique products and solutions.”
After months of research and fine tuning the formulation for the snack bar, Faffa Foods is now ready to enter the trial phase of the project. Jeff and Moses have both agreed to continue supporting Faffa Foods through their trials and will spend the next several months running production trials, developing production procedures, and troubleshooting any issues. “It has been a pleasure working with PFS volunteers and TechnoServe,” said Faffa Foods Deputy Director Zelalem Yimer. “We really appreciate Jeff and Moses’ commitment, which is a driving force for our team. We can’t wait to share an update on the status of our product in the near future!”
For the past 18 years, Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) has been leading the way in conversation across Zambia. “COMACO originally formed to provide economic opportunities for poachers in the area so they didn’t have to rely on poaching for an income,” said COMACO CEO Dale Lewis. “We now engage small-scale farmers, most with one to two acres of farmland, who care for the soil and environment.” Dale approaches his business by seeing what farmers are producing in the local community and working with them to add value to their crops. COMACO originally started with rice because it was a crop that was being grown in the communities where wildlife lived. Since then, COMACO has added several legume products to their portfolio not only because they’re popular in the community and healthy, they also help bring valuable nutrients back to the soil.
Most recently, Dale noticed that farmers in his community were sitting on crates and crates of tomatoes and the idea of producing ketchup occurred to him. “During the dry season women produce a lot of tomatoes,” said Dale. “I instantly saw an opportunity to help them make more money by adding value to their tomatoes and processing them into organic ketchup.” Despite having little knowledge in tomato processing, Dale knew this would bring a lot of needed opportunity to the area so he reached out to PFS and their volunteer network for advice.
PFS engaged Kurt Villwock, a principal scientist at General Mills with tomato processing experience, to help with the request. “I was first introduced to PFS by my leadership team at General Mills who realized I may be a good match to help solve a problem,” said Kurt. “I’ve worked in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years and have a PhD in Food Science. I wanted to use my skills and expertise to help others.” In order to start processing tomatoes at their new facility in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, COMACO needed advice on what the processing would look like, estimate cost for small-scale production, and equipment recommendations. After a few one-hour calls and robust discussion, COMACO received a detailed guidance document from Kurt that would help them get started with a small-scale organic tomato processing plant.
“This is some of the clearest and most helpful instructions on food processing we’ve had yet,” said Dale. “We had received a quote from an equipment vendor and Kurt pointed out that the processing line we were looking at would not be able to retain the color of the ketchup or provide a usable by-product.” Utilizing the guidance document, COMACO is working with local equipment vendors to source appropriate equipment for their future plant. Additionally, Dale is working on raising the necessary capital to help COMACO achieve their vision of opening the new tomato processing plant. “We wish we could have Kurt here in Zambia helping us make COMACO the next General Mills in Africa,” said Dale. “We had a vision of being a brand for Africa and General Mills and PFS have helped make that possible.”
In September 2021, COMACO was awarded a $600,000 grant from the Enterprise Challenge Fund to finance a tomato production plant that will provide additional income to more than 20,000 farmers in Zambia.
PFS: What was your main motivation for joining the PFS mentorship program?
AM: In my sales career I have learned a ton about relationship building and customer management. I wanted to find a way to use those skills to make a direct and positive impact outside of the US. The goal of empowering people to create sustainable economic growth really stuck out to me.
PFS: What has been your favorite part of the mentorship?
AM: My favorite part of my mentorship with Gordon has been getting to know him and hearing his perspective on the world. I truly feel like I have gotten more out of the relationship than he has. From a business perspective, I really enjoyed working with Gordon to think through the way he approaches his client relationships. Being a results oriented salesperson, it feels good to hear that Gordon was able to break through with his clients by applying a new tactic we talked about.
PFS: Have you learned anything new through your mentorship?
AM: I personally feel the mentorship program has given me the opportunity to build and develop my coaching muscles in a way I wouldn’t have been able to in my current role. This experience has helped me think through how I approach situations with my employees and business partners.
PFS: What would you say to someone who is interested in mentoring, but hesitant to start?
AM: I came into the program with some doubt that I could truly make an impact. Wow, was I wrong! Everyone at PFS is very understanding that volunteering isn’t your primary job and is incredibly appreciative of anything you can give. I am so grateful that this opportunity has truly given me a new friend and I hope to travel to Ghana one day and meet Gordon in person.
Kailey Bullock is a specialty grain merchant and has worked with three Partners in Food Solutions clients: Spice World in Kenya, Supa Seki and Sozi Integrity Trading, both located in Tanzania.
PFS: Tell us about yourself and your role at Ardent Mills.
KB: I developed a passion for agriculture at a young age by growing up in the ag industry in Texas. Now I reside in Colorado and enjoy spending time outdoors. At work you will find me purchasing numerous commodities as a specialty grain merchant for The Annex.
PFS: What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
KB: To help feed the world.
PFS: Why did you choose to volunteer as a Client Lead?
KB: I volunteered on a few projects throughout the past couple of years and really enjoyed it. Being a Client Lead is a slightly different kind of opportunity with PFS.
PFS: What’s your favorite part of volunteering with PFS?
KB: Directly making a positive impact on clients in the food industry who want to make a difference in the world. Through PFS, clients receive guidance through challenges and solutions to better enhance their operation. PFS does a great job putting together a diverse group of volunteers to reach the clients goals for the project.
PFS: If someone is hesitant to volunteer with PFS, what would you say to them?
KB: Self growth revolves a lot around putting yourself out there and trying something new. It is very rewarding when helping someone in need by giving a little bit of your time and expertise. PFS creates a support system for both clients and volunteers by strategically putting teams together.