Specialty Food Magazine

SUMMER 2015

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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giving back Curtis says she is fastidious about managing the supply to make the product readily available in West Africa to aid in nourishing communities while paying fair trade wages to women's farming coopera- tives. At the same time, she has introduced moringa to American consumers with a line of snack bars featuring the nutrient-packed plant. In one year, Kuli Kuli bars made their way into 200 stores in Northern California. With the recent launch of two new prod- ucts, moringa powder and tea, the company plans to continue its expansion in support of its socially minded business on the other side of the world. A Nourishing Business Idea... While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in 2010, Curtis found herself feeling the early effects of malnourishment, a wide- spread health issue in West Africa. "Two nurses who I worked with at the health center gave me moringa leaves when I told them I was feeling malnourished. When I felt how much it revitalized me, I did some research and read that there are over 1,500 scientific articles on the wondrous proper- ties of moringa," she says. The leaves have double the protein of yogurt, four times the vitamin A of carrots, three times the potas- sium of bananas, four times the calcium of milk, and seven times the vitamin C of oranges. Learning this, Curtis came up with the idea to bring moringa to the U.S. to cre- ate a viable business for the local women of West Africa. "People didn't want to grow it because there was no market," Curtis recalls of the sparsely planted tree. When her Peace Corps service ended early because of a terrorist attack, she saw the moringa busi- ness as a way to continue her service back h ome. With no funding or experience in the food industry, she turned to her oldest childhood friend, Valerie Popelka, who had experience working in product devel- opment at food giants like General Mills, Hershey's, and Nestle. Setting up a campaign on the crowd- funding site Indiegogo, they poured energy into a heart-wrenching video that helped them raise $53,000—more than half of that in the first day—making it the most successful food startup in the history of Indiegogo. Since then, this socially mind- ed business has earned coverage from the likes of Fast Company and NBC. "We were on MSNBC 'Morning Joe,' which gave us $30,000 in sales in one day," Curtis says. Creating a Market to Fuel Supply... Until recently, moringa was virtually unheard of in the U.S. and underutilized as a nutritious ingredient in the tropical areas where it's grown. "West Africans boil the leaves for a long time so the nutrients leach into the water," Curtis explains. "While I was there, I did a lot of education about the plant and how using it as a powder gives so much more nutritional value." Kuli kuli, a West African snack of pea- nuts and moringa powder, is the inspiration CEO Lisa Curtis (fourth from right) and CTO Jordan Moncharmont (second from right) in Tamale, Ghana, with moringa farmers from the Fair Harvest Cooperative. 134 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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