The company aimed to reach 50,000 school children by 2016 with its free fortified peanut-based paste supplement Vivi, which could provide as much as 25% of the children’s daily calorie intake.
A spokesperson for the company told us the local sourcing meant the project would also hold economic value for the wider community.
“Ghana currently grows about 450,000 metric tons of peanuts annually. We believe there is a strong opportunity to substantially increase that number through training, building capacity and creating a supply chain of safe, reliable peanuts that can be used for our Vivi program and for other commercial entities looking for quality peanuts. Expanding the market for peanuts will help peanut farmers, their families and their communities.”
According to Mintec data, Ghana is a relatively small producer in the context of a total global output of 40m tonnes a year. The top three peanut producing countries are China (16.5m tonnes), India (5.2m) and Nigeria (3m).
“US peanut prices rose substantially in 2011/2012, supported by lower production in the US, the major peanut exporter, following reduction in planted area and severe drought which lowered yields,” the market research firm told us.
At the Clinton Global Initiative the company committed to train 7,500 peanut farmers on agricultural practices and roasting.
Most of Hershey’s peanuts for its commercial products such as Reese's Cups come from the US.
Vivi - production of which started in March - is currently only made for the Ghana school feeding programme. Hershey worked with Project Peanut Butter on the programme.
In a nutshell
Peanuts were chosen because of their nutritional profile – high in fibre and a source of B vitamins and vitamin E – and because they were already grown in Ghana and were a common local flavour, which Hershey hoped would help with student acceptance of the product.
It also allowed Hershey to use its knowledge of using the ingredient commercially.
Hershey is a member of Partners in Food Solutions, a non-profit ‘intellectual philanthropy’ organisation that links technical and business expertise of big food companies like General Mills and Cargill with small food processors and millers in Africa.
Using a ‘food’ ingredient for the supplement as opposed to vitamin supplements also carried advantages.
“The benefit of a food vs. pill is the ‘belly fill’ and calorie benefits. Part of the purpose of this initiative is to help with children’s growth and development – both how kids physically grow, but also as an aid to education. You can’t focus on your studies if you’re focused on being hungry.”
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), anaemia affects over three quarters of young children and almost half of women of childbearing age in Ghana.
“Food-based approaches and iron and folic supplementation programmes have been implemented to combat iron deficiency anemia but impact has not been measured.”
A history of nutritional peanut butter
The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts forward Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) products - peanut butter mixed with dried skimmed milk and vitamins and minerals – as one possible solution to malnutrition in the developing world.
“The advantage of RUTF is that it is a ready-to-use paste which does not need to be mixed with water, thereby avoiding the risk of bacterial proliferation in case of accidental contamination,” the WHO wrote.
According to a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98% of children treated with RUTF were well-nourished after six months and 96% were well-nourished after a year.
Such products can also be stored for three to four months without refrigeration even at tropical temperatures.
Local production of these pastes is already underway in countries like the Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger.
Another example of a fortified peanut butter product is MANA (Mother Administered Nutritive Aid), which is designed to be consumed three times a day over a period of six to eight weeks (10-15 kg) to combat malnutrition.
Elsewhere 'Plumpy’nut' is produced by French RUTF manufacturer Nutriset.