Co-founder and managing director of Aduna, Andrew Hunt, discusses how his organisation is reaching out to Northern Ghana in responsibly sourcing what he believes is the next superfood – the baobab.
In the process he is turning the traditional aid model into one that is creating new markets for high-potential underutilised crops – many of which already grow abundantly in the wild.
“Within the aid-based model, huge investments are made by donors into time-bound ‘projects’ whereby thousands of women are trained to grow ‘cash crops’ - with little thought as to how the products will be marketed.
“As such, when the projects expire, nothing is left but redundant equipment and discouraged producers. These producers are left with little choice but to uproot the crops and return to their subsistence lifestyles. For anyone who has spent time in rural Africa, this story is all too familiar.”
By focusing on demand first and production second, Aduna reduce the project risk and ensure that engagement with communities is both sustainable and additional.
The demand is created with baobab – a fruit without a significant history of either consumption in Northern Ghana, the region Aduna is working in. If successful, Hunt believes baobab has the potential to become a new industry for this region.
“Once this ‘proof of concept’ has been successfully delivered it can be replicated and further scaled up – in other parts of Africa where baobab is abundant, and with other ingredients in Aduna’s pipeline, including moringa,” said Hunt.
Moringa is an organic green superfood made from the naturally dried leaf of the Moringa tree. Unusually for a plant, the leaf is a rich source of protein as well as iron, vitamin A and vitamin K. It is also 31% fibre and a source of vitamin E, calcium and magnesium.
Hunt was at pains to emphasise the long-term nature of Aduna’s commitment and the strategy to ensuring the baobab fruit is not a “fad superfood” – one of the biggest risks identified in the early stages of creating Aduna.
“Our overall strategy is to take Aduna from early adopters of the superfood powders to early majority (bars and teas) to majority (more mainstream formats in our NPD pipeline),” explained Hunt.
“By introducing new and exciting formats every 9-12 months we keep the ingredient in the spotlight of the media, the retailer and hence the consumers. Over a sustained period of years baobab will gain public acceptance and be used as an ingredient for mainstream food manufacturers.”
One strategy that Aduna won’t be using is ‘sympathy-vote marketing,’ an approach that plays on Africa’s history of suffering and hardship in order to sell a particular product.
“The portrayal of Africa in the West is often clichéd and patronising, re-enforcing outdated thinking and stereotypes of a disease, corruption and war-ridden continent,” explained Hunt.
“Negative media coverage, charity appeals using exploitative imagery and the pejorative language of well-meaning institutions (consider FairTrade’s use of the term “Third World Producers”) has seeped into public consciousness, negatively impacting macro-economic issues such as investment and tourism.”
Rather than dwelling on the past, Aduna aims to "breathe the vibrancy of Africa into the daily lives of people around the world."
By fusing African wax print fabric with gold foiling and tamper proof seals, the packaging also ndicates the product is of African origin. Aduna Baobab and Moringa are now sold in Liberty and Selfridges’ beauty halls. Further listings have been achieved with retailers such as Publicis Drugstore and Bon Marche (Paris), and Alara (Lagos).
Interested in learning more? Andrew Hunt is just one of the many speakers at Food Vision next week, a senior level industry event organised by the publishers of FoodNavigator. Don't miss his talk "Transforming a never-heard-of ingredient into a trending global superfood - and creating a new business model for rural Africa."
Food Vision takes place in Cannes 2 – 4 March 2016. Click here to book your place now.