Building resilient supply chains starting with farmers, land
When superfood company Kuli Kuli Foods first started, the US market for moringa didn’t exist, and it required years of work to build out the supply chain before a product could be launched, CEO and founder Lisa Curtis shared during the session (watch on-demand here).
“We partnered with small farmers and really went direct to the source starting in Northern Ghana to work with the farmers, [but] not teaching them how to grow; they already knew how to grow moringa," Curtis said. "We started working with these farmers to source the highest quality moringa powder, started working with them on how can we process it, how can we hit the right standards. And then how can we get enough volumes that it actually made sense to export it and sell to the US."
Mmany of these farmers used agroforestry and regenerative agriculture practices that have been a focus of creating more resilient supply chains across the food and beverage industry, Curtis said.
To build resilient supply chains food and beverage companies also need to ensure that they promote and secure local ecosystems, Marc Diaz, CCO for pongamia company Terviva.
"We believe diversity is one of the best ways to promote resilience, and we design diversity into our business in three dimensions: the way we grow our crops, the places we grow our crops, and the producers who support our crop. So, we start with the system-level diversity."
Additionally, Terviva works with farmers to ensure that they are using the best practices to grow pongamia trees, allowing it to create oils and flours, Diaz explained.
“We encourage our farmers not to spray. In fact, the tree has defensive compounds that repel pests and the type of pressures that reduce yield and reduce performance. We know that has benefits in our ecosystem both for the pollinators who aren't having to battle insecticides and other pesticides but also [for] the consumers who are really delighted that they don't have those compounds between them and the product. So, those are a couple of examples of how we tried to build diversity into our system to support a more resilient supply chain.”
Farm gate to dinner plate: Understanding supply chain inefficiencies
Supply chain resiliency also requires working with retail partners to ensure products are transported in a timely and efficient manner, said Doug Baker, VP of Industry Relations for FMI.
“Now, we're going to talk downstream; we're going to get from farm gate to dinner plate, and there's a lot of things that can really sort of mess what's going upstream if we don't do things right downstream," Baker said. "I think most importantly companies need to ...reveal their inefficiencies with their existing trading partners. Trading partner collaboration best practices are so important, and revealing those inefficiencies will help us continue to have a resilient, adaptable supply chain.”
Additionally, companies looking to secure their supply chain should reduce inefficiencies, including making sure trucks transporting products are full, Baker noted.
Food and beverage companies are also increasingly dealing with extreme weather events and natural disasters that can disrupt the transportation side of the supply chain. Kuli Kuli Foods experienced this months before the company was to launch nationwide, Curtis said.
“We got the news from Whole Foods Market that they wanted to launch us nationwide. At the time, we were just working with one farmers cooperative, this amazing women's cooperative in Northern Ghana... They ramped up; we ramped up. Three months before the launch, there was a huge wildfire in Northern Ghana, and all the trees burned down. Our entire moringa operation was literally turned into dust.”
Following the fire, Kuli Kuli Foods began a search for a new moringa supplier and found a “farm in Nicaragua that hit all of [its] requirements” that allowed them to launch in time, Curtis said. Since then, the company has expanded the number of farmers it works with and has longer lead times on receiving their raw materials, she added.
“We have made a real concerted efforts to diversify our supply chain in the sense that we sourced from quite a few general firms,” Curtis said. “From a logistics front, we sort of just assume that the PO we place today is going to arrive eight months from now, and it may or may not arrive, even in that time ... It's a lot of lag time, and it means that we are constantly balancing and rebalancing ... our production run.”
Editor's note: To watch the full sessions on-demand, register here for the free FoodNavigator-USA Futureproofing the Food System digital summit.