Jonathan Griebel is a food industry veteran with 40 years of diverse experience. He started off as a chef for the first 15 years of his career and then moved into food manufacturing. He is currently based in the United States as a food scientist in Cargill’s protein group.
Jonathan has been a dedicated PFS volunteer for the last ten years, using his skills and expertise to help African food processors develop sustainable businesses. Jonathan grew up in Nigeria, where his parents served as missionaries and he has always tried to follow their example of giving back to others. Last year, Jonathan and a packaging food scientist from General Mills, were paired with a spice-processing company in Côte d’Ivoire called Société Ivoirienne de Transformation du Vivrier, also known as SITRAV. The company was having shelf-life issues with their packaged spice line. The spices developed mold and changed color a few months after production.
The volunteers went through SITRAV’s production process - from reception of the raw materials to sorting, grinding, drying and packaging - to try to identify the issues. It was through this that Jonathan observed inconsistencies in the moisture content and quality of the spices after they were dried. “It was a really interesting project for me because it took me back to my core food science experience. With our combined understanding of the general parameters of food science as volunteers, we identified factors such as the pH and packaging, which were contributing to the deterioration of the spices,” Jonathan said. However, they discovered that SITRAV’s key challenge was the moisture content of their product. “We found out that the team tested moisture content by hand, which was not very effective.”
The volunteers concluded that a limit of ten percent moisture in the spices would be acceptable. However, this precise measurement could only be done with a moisture analyzer. Jonathan connected with his colleagues in Cargill Cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire to ask for their support. “I just went on to the Cargill website and sent an email to the quality assurance team in Côte d’Ivoire, none of whom I knew before, and in typical Cargill fashion they were very willing to help SITRAV out.”
The team had a moisture analyzer to spare which they graciously donated to SITRAV. And they didn’t stop there. They also trained the SITRAV team on the use, calibration and maintenance of the equipment.
The project’s result had a positive domino effect. The elimination of the mold led to longer shelf life and fewer complaints from suppliers. This allowed SITRAV to expand their distribution and gave them access to supply mainstream grocery stores.
Mr. Béni Ngouan, operations director of SITRAV shared how valuable this project was to them. “The support was very enriching for us. Thanks to the analysis of our production process carried out by the volunteers, we improved our hygiene practices to reduce the risk of contamination. Thanks to them too, we were supported by Cargill Côte d’Ivoire. We are very grateful to the volunteers and to PFS,”he said.
For Jonathan, “It’s great that Cargill gives us the opportunity to work on these projects with PFS. SITRAV’s founders were so pleasant to work with. I also got the chance to practice some of the French I’ve picked up over the years and learned more about Côte d’Ivoire and Cargill’s cocoa business in the country. Volunteering on projects like this makes me a better, happier and more valuable Cargill employee.”