Supporting Entrepreneurs to Adopt Scalable Techniques to Improve Nutrition for Low-income Consumers

Since most people get a large portion of their food from the private sector, private-sector companies can play a key role in improving nutrition by bringing more safe and nutritious products to market, in forms that are appealing and affordable to consumers. This is ever more important in Nigeria today, where annual food inflation in December 2023 reached 28% – putting healthy diets beyond the reach of many lower-income consumers.

To help support the private sector in this, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) with funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invested in research about how businesses can adopt their products and sales approaches to reach lower-income consumers with nutritious foods. To identify additional innovative approaches and support businesses to apply them, the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) in Nigeria (which is co-convened by GAIN and the World Food Programme) launched a business innovation competition in 2023. It seeks to identify businesses with innovative models that accelerate access to safe and healthy diets, with a focus on low-income consumers, while also being profitable. 

Engaged in classroom discussions

The competition began in November 2023 with a call for applications from businesses within the food and nutrition ecosystem. To this call, 610 budding entrepreneurs applied. Amid this stiff competition, 10 shortlisted businesses were selected from different geopolitical regions of the country: Abisal Foods (company based in the West that processes biofortified crops into various products, with a focus on women and children consumers), Gatob Noiler Farm (an agribusiness based in the North Central that focuses on increasing consumption of the Noiler breed of chicken, based on their nutritive value), Inyene Agro Processing Factory (an agribusiness located in the South-South that works with small holder farmers in local communities to process and commercialise vitamin A-rich cassava), Phronesis Foods (a food processing and packaging company located in the East, with a focus on promoting local healthy foods for consumption), the Nut Place Ltd (a food processing company based in the West that uses technology to drive innovation in the production of  healthy foods like nuts, tubers, and grains), ESOXTRA (a food processing and nutrition consulting company situated in the West that produces plant-based foods and fruit drinks), Zest4Life (a fruit and vegetable processing company located in the West), Laalfi Farms (an agribusiness, focused on processing fruits and vegetables to reduce post-harvest losses, located in the North Central), GOA Farms (a budding business that is into catfish farming, processing, distribution and sales, based in the West), and Mash Baby Food (a company focused on converting natural fruits and vegetables to edible puree for young children aged  6months and above, based in the West).

In collaboration with Fate Foundation, one of SBN’s strategic partners, these businesses participated in a five-day boot camp in January 2024 to strengthen their capacity as they prepare for the main competition (an oral pitch before a set of judges) in March. The first four days of the boot camp focused on best practices related to the business model canvas, growth strategy, pitching and resilience; this included specific content about business model adaptations that can help companies reach lower-income consumers. On the final day of the boot camp, the businesses delivered a demo pitch of their actual presentation to a panel of faculty judges. Their presentations included an overview of their businesses, the problem and their solution, their business models and reach, their revenue as well as their distribution channels. The demo pitch ended with the businesses presenting the amount needed to scale up their business models to reach the intended target audience.

As the entrepreneurs prepare for the pitch day, GAIN, SBN, and Fate Foundation will continue to support the businesses in perfecting their pitches and approaches, propelling them to shine in the final stage of the competition. At the end of the competition, the winner will receive $6,000 (NGN5,000,000), the first runner-up will receive $3,500 (NGN3,000,000), and the second runner-up will receive $2,500 (NGN2,000,000), which they can use to grow their business – and eventually enhance their impact on consumers.

May the best pitch win!