Social entrepreneurship is described as an insightful process of chasing appropriate solutions to social problems. Simply put, social entrepreneurs have a duty: to create and uphold social value. They chase opportunities that can help them complete their mission, while constantly learning and adapting. Social entrepreneurs are doing their best to reintroduce nutrition into food value chains, choosing to scale their organizations. Some of them shared their thoughts at the Globalizer Summit, providing important lessons on how food corporations can transform their value chains in order to maximize not only profits, but also nutrients.
Market-driven rather than a market driver
Some food corporations complain about the fact that foods richer in nutrients cannot be created if there doesn’t exist a market designed especially for these foods. Sylvia Banda, an Ashoka Fellow, managed to promote local foods rich in nutrients in Zambia by creating a market instead of discovering one. She managed to talk Zambian farmers into growing foods such as eggplants and pumpkins, by promising that she would buy and use them for her catering company. Besides, she decided to increase demand by using several media campaigns, and even though Western processed foods were a major threat, she somehow managed to make her products successful.
Being aware of the fact that role models are the only ones who can create new markets, she gained the support of Zambia’s First Lady, who committed to promote the aforementioned foods during several of her interviews. Zambians practically realized that local food is enough, and that there’s no need to turn for other products. During the panel discussion, Banda repeatedly insisted on this message, mentioning that it’s the only way nutrient-rich food can reappear in the current economy.
Labels are misleading
Most nutritional labels provided on foods are misleading, and people run the risk of purchasing a product only because it claims to contain 5 mg of calcium, even though the label doesn’t specify whether the type of calcium included can be absorbed by the body.
Basil Kransdorff, Ashoka Fellow, is looking to decrease malnutrition in Africa with a food product called e’Pap, which is basically designed as a ready-to-eat supplement. This product is said to contain nutrients that can be absorbed very easily, such as iron. Kransdorff insisted that more and more companies should become aware of the fact that packaging will soon end up being more nutritious than the product contained.
That being said, it’s no surprise that Ashoka is currently working with several European food producers in an attempt to enhance their products’ nutrient availability. The Intelligent Nutrition label will also allow consumers to make their own decisions by taking into account the food’s nutritional quality.
When it comes to finding a partner for nutritious foods, you don’t usually think about street food vendors. However, the truth is that street food vendors can be trained on hygiene and nutrition, so that they can improve the nutrition and quality of their products. Several cities such as Bangkok and Beijing have already turned to this system, whose success can be higher than we might have expected in the first place.
Agri-businesses can also find serious partners in the informal and unorganized economy sector, and even among social entrepreneurs. Even though nutrition has become a great challenge, no one can actually provide an answer to all the questions raised by this subject. However, bringing several famous stakeholders together through initiatives such as “Nutrients for All” can help in developing and scaling outstanding ideas that will help us win the battle against malnutrition.
There’s no doubt that social entrepreneurs can teach a lot of things to food companies struggling to make a name for themselves without promoting bad food or using front groups to promote their products. In order to make people want to buy, food companies must first care about the people. Do they care? That is the question and unfortunately, there’s no way to give it a straight answer.
Social entrepreneurship is insightful, inspirational, and ultimately, collective. Food companies have a lot to learn from these people. When you have a goal you want to pursue, nothing should stop you from moving forward. People just want to buy good food, unprocessed food, and let’s be honest, not a lot of food companies are fond of organic ingredients and all-natural production measures.