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Promoting Good Health through Breakfast Porridge in Tanzania

This article in brief: 

  • Rumishael and Daughters Food Co., a new food company in Tanzania, has launched A+ Uji Tayari, a breakfast porridge fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to combat malnutrition and promote good health among children and pregnant and lactating mothers. 
  • But with no previous background in food processing, the owners initially struggled to turn their idea into a viable business.  
  • Through Feed the Future’s Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing, the company received collaborative support and advice from business experts to get their business up and running and bring the new, nutritious product to market. 

When Rumishael Shoo and Robyn Masanga returned to Tanzania after living in New Zealand with their young family, they saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the Tanzanian market for nutritious breakfast products for young children and families. There were few convenient, ready-to-eat nutritious foods available in Tanzania. So, Shoo and Masanga created an instant porridge to meet this need. 

Soon, children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers across Tanzania will be starting their morning with A+ Uji Tayari, a fortified breakfast porridge that can help families combat malnutrition and promote good health. It has taken collaboration across the globe to make this vision a reality.   

Identifying a Need 

In low- and middle-income countries, like Tanzania, only 18 percent of children six to 23 months receive a minimally acceptable diet, which includes nutrient-rich complementary foods and breast milk. Locally made complementary foods are often of poor quality and do not meet nutritional needs. Imported foods are often too expensive for low-income families that make up the largest percentage of the Tanzanian population.  

A Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. employee gathers ingredients for instant porridge

Photo by Bobby Neptune 

Shoo and Masanga sought to help address the challenge of malnourishment in their country. They founded a new company – Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. – and began developing a proprietary blend of flour for a new porridge product. As they started investing in their business and purchasing production equipment, they realized their lack of experience in food processing was holding them back from establishing and scaling commercial production. They needed support to achieve their dream. Then they learned about the Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP). 

“As a secondary school mathematics teacher for 20 years, I was very aware of the impact nutrition has on students’ learning,” Masanga said. “Students who are hungry or haven’t had a nutritious breakfast struggle to concentrate in the classroom for the full day.” A student’s ability to perform in school begins long before they walk through the school doors. Proper nutrition early in life plays a vital role in a child’s brain and body development.   

AINFP is a Feed the Future partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development, TechnoServe, and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) that provides tailored advice, training, and access to finance to processors of nutritious foods across five countries in Africa, including Tanzania. The local program team identified Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. as a company with a social mission that could benefit from its support.   

AINFP harnesses the expertise of employee experts from PFS’ corporate partners – General Mills, Cargill, DSM, Bühler, Hershey, Ardent Mills and J.M. Smucker’s – to help African food processors solve their greatest business challenges. Since 2018, AINFP has provided tailored advice to 57 firms. It aims to provide sector-wide training to more than 650 companies in East and Southern Africa by 2023.   

A Collaborative and Nutritious Process   

AINFP staff conducted an assessment of Shoo and Masanga’s business and prioritized its most pressing challenges, then worked with the owners to develop a roadmap to get their company up and running. First, they needed to install the machinery and start the factory. Eugene Dust, a senior technologist at Bühler, spent a week on-site supporting installation and calibration of the equipment. He also trained staff in best practices in extrusion, which mixes and grinds raw ingredients and then cooks and shapes the final food product in one continuous process. 

A group of workers at Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. review operations to improve malnourishment in Tanzania. Photo by Bobby Neptune 

During his visit, Dust advised the young company on necessary start-up operations. 

“The client visit let us evaluate the equipment and the operating personnel with our own eyes and better equipped us to create a best-practices manual for Rumishael,” Dust said. “Being able to see who we are working with, the environment and equipment was a great benefit to bringing success to the project. It also created a closer working relationship and friendship not normally possible with these types of projects.” 

recently graduated food technologist from Tanzania, Shela Nicodemus, is now following up on this work, ensuring production is compliant with local food safety and health standards. 

To achieve a healthy product, nutritionists recommend a blend of ingredients that together provide the ideal mix of essential nutrients – quality protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals – necessary for human development. To develop Rumishael and Daughters Food Co.’s new, nutritious product, a team of volunteer food scientists and nutritionists from PFS and corporate partners, working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, advised on the ideal formulation of ingredients. As a result, A+ Uji Tayari’s porridge flour incorporates local ingredients, including maize, soy, milk powder, wheat, and sugar and is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.    

The porridge is a great solution for infant and young child caregivers looking for convenient complementary foods. Not only is the porridge highly nutritious and affordable, but it also cooks instantly, saving time and money.  

“When family life gets so busy in the mornings, nutrition is one of the first things to go,” Masanga said. “Here in Tanzania it is difficult to prepare a nutritious breakfast quickly – our product solves that problem.” 

Ready for Market 

To get the product to market, Shoo and Masanga applied to participate in a local business challenge. The competition, hosted by TechnoServe and BoP Inc., helps winning processors learn more about serving disadvantaged groups and develop a customized business model. Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. participated in a five-day, in-person boot camp training and then pitched their concept to a panel of judges. After winning the challenge, their new company is receiving ongoing tailored support with consumer insights and a targeted marketing strategy. A consumer insight survey shows 80 percent consumer satisfaction with the product, especially taste, texture, packaging, price and ease of use. 

Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. also received support from other U.S. companies, including General Mills and Cargill, for product logo design and the development of a product-costing tool to help them appropriately price the product for the local market.   

“We are blown away and incredibly grateful for the depth of expertise and support,” Shoo said. 

As they move into production, and in response to COVID-19, the company has introduced enhanced hygiene practices and sanitation Standard Operating Practices. They have also established shifts for workers to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

After several intense months of support, A+ Uji Tayari has hit the market. The product is marketed to several key groups, especially caregivers of infant and young children and pregnant women and lactating mothers. The nutritious product is also promoted among school and university students; organizations and institutions which provide nutritious food to targeted, disadvantaged groups; people who are sick; and workers who need a healthy and filling instant meal while at work.   

Rumishael and Daughters Food Co. are starting with the local market in Dar es Salaam and plan to expand across Tanzania and beyond. This project is an example of how Feed the Future and its partners are working to support local small and medium enterprises to deliver good nutrition to disadvantaged groups in East and Southern Africa. 

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