Abdul Cauio, CEO, Miruku Agro-Indústria won the DSM Nutritional Products Innovation Award at the 2018 SUN Pitch Competition, held during the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2018. The competition showcased investment opportunities in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) working to improve access to nutritious food across Africa.
Royal DSM, a key partner of the SUN Business Network and co-organiser of the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum, selected Miruku Agro-Indústria as the winner of the DSM Nutritional Products Innovation Award which included specialised technical assistance focused on product reformulation and a $1,000 cash prize.
DSM worked closely with Miruku Agro-Indústria over the course of 2019 to support product development and formulation – ensuring that they offer nutritional quality at an affordable price for the company and consumer.
We spoke with Abdul Cauio and Heidi-Lee Robertson, Market Development Manager, DSM Nutritional Products South Africa to discuss how the support offered by DSM has benefitted this local Mozambican business.
Tell us about your business. How does it contribute to improved nutrition in Mozambique?
Abdul Cauio (AC): Miruku Agro-Indústria is a processing unit which produces and widely distributes unique fortified maize flour and is currently introducing a new product to the market – Corn Soy Blend (CSB) – an enriched instant porridge. CSB reduces malnutrition and fills the importation gap of enriched porridges in the country, especially in the northern region of Mozambique. The porridge is rich in minerals and vitamins.
Prior to embarking on the SUN Pitch Competition journey, what challenges did you face in growing the impact of your business for improved nutrition?
AC: Our major challenge was how to maximise profits whilst offering affordable and nutritious products to low-income consumers. The main difficulty was how to reduce costs while maintaining quality products in the market.
How has the technical assistance offered by DSM supported your business to have a better impact for improved nutrition?
AC: With the support of DSM we have been able to improve the formulation of our CSB products. We have also benefitted from support on balancing production costs, product affordability and quality maintenance by combining technical formulation and access to a vast and diversified source of packaging suppliers. Being able to match affordable packaging and long lasting product shelf life is critical to business profitability and product affordability.
What is the most interesting aspect you learned about food innovation and fortification?
AC: While visiting the lab in South Africa I learned that engaging consumers in product development is essential for understanding consumer needs and thus developing products to meet those needs. This engagement reduces the risk of failure as the new product is the result of the consumers’ identified needs (i.e. demand-based innovation).
How do you see yourself working together with DSM in the future?
AC: I see a very long lasting business relationship between Miruku Agro-Indústria and DSM. Market dynamics and shifts in consumer behaviour will always determine the types of products being supplied to the market. By engaging with DSM we can keep updating our portfolio of products and services to offer our customer as new needs emerge. This is a win-win business relationship.
How do you see the SUN Business Network as a valuable partner in this process?
AC: The SUN Business Network, with its range of partners, can help us shape and stimulate the demand for nutritious food among low-income consumers. This can be done through different marketing techniques – e.g. sensitisation campaigns on nutritious products, pilots and subsidised CSB distribution projects which would help increase demand for our products while saving on marketing costs. This would end up improving our visibility, wider distribution network, increased sales and profitability.
What can nutritional companies, such as DSM, offer to SMEs in the region?
Heidi-Lee Robertson (HLR): Most definitely technical assistance, but also support with labelling, marketing, quality standards for food production and pre-assessment audits, and even recommended packaging to enhance shelf life.
What have you learned from working with Miruku Agro-Indústria?
HLR: You cannot assume anything! I had no idea that his base product would require so much attention before we could start working on enhancing it with flavours and premix. Additionally, the overall quality standards adhered to in the production facility should be assessed up front. No wonder SMEs struggle to become successful businesses!
What is, in your words, the importance of strengthening SMEs in the region to ensure more affordable nutritious foods are available and aspirational to those that need it most?
HLR: These SMEs have much more insight into grass roots requirements, taste preferences, affordability, and how to reach the last mile. I believe they also know how to navigate and access non-traditional sales channels. By strengthening these SMEs we are also learning about what it takes to produce and sell affordable nutritious foods, including the associated costs.