Tag Archives: Grains/Seeds/Pulses

South-South trade vital for expansion at Andean Valley

By Clara Paz

Fifteen years ago, Andean Valley and other Bolivian leading quinoa exporters were selling the little golden grain only as commodity to a handful of traders based mainly in Europe and North America.  The highly nutritious and gluten-free seed had caught the attention of a small but steady group of loyal consumers, mainly vegetarians, those with food intolerances and some adventurous food lovers.

Demand for this versatile grain grew steadily as people learned of quinoa’s health benefits – packed with 10 essential amino acids, minerals and even vitamin B16. More ethnic, natural and health food stores started to pop up in the artsy neighbourhoods of Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Montreal. But for Bolivian entrepreneur Javier Fernandez, managing director at Andean Valley, this traditional North-South trade between wealthy and developing countries, was too rigid without much room for additional cooperation and diversification.

“In 2007 I realised that strictly exporting containers of quinoa as commodity was not the only path I wanted to follow”, says Fernandez.  Instead of finding several buyers in a few markets to offer the same commodity with price as the main selling tool, Fernandez changed the strategy: serve a few customers in key markets with a range of quality quinoa products.  He kept clients like David Schorr of Quinoa Corp who introduced quinoa to the United States as a direct grower in Colorado and is still a main direct importer. “Schorr understood that a guaranteed fair price was the only way to alleviate the farmers’ uncertainty, especially considering the harsh weather conditions and poor infrastructure prevalent in the Andean highlands,” says Fernandez.

Trade between developing countries, also known as South-South trade, has not been common in Latin America in spite of agreements negotiated in the region. It has usually been easier and cheaper to fly to the United States or Europe than to any neighbouring country. Still, Fernandez opted to explore Brazil, a country where he found a great partner with knowledge of logistics and warehousing.  Soon Andean Valley became the main supplier of quinoa in bulk and to the main retail channels, including giant Pao de Açucar. He began to introduce value-added products like gluten-free pizza dough, hamburgers, soups, breakfast cereals and desserts. “Today Andean Valley offers 38 products with quinoa as main ingredient, all prepared and packed in Bolivia”, says Fernandez. He relies on other Bolivian groups such as Coronilla and El Ceibo to supply Andean Valley with additional products under private label.

Andean Valley has developed a simple but effective business model that will be launched in Colombia this coming February; Costa Rica will follow. Living abroad for several years before returning to Colombia, Sebastian Zamora and Vanesa Parra became aware of the strong connection between health and food. “There is a great potential in Colombia for high quality organic foods, especially gluten-free”, says Parra of Andean Valley Colombia, which is updating its corporate image with a new communication campaign and website. Demand for quinoa is booming and Fernandez is confident that this noble food will open a new era of south-south trade in the organic market.

Certifications and dedicated facility bolster Sindan Organic

By Amanda Doughty

Last year, Bolivian entrepreneur Teodosio Huayllani Marca embarked in a new venture, Sindan Organic, with the purpose of offering a diversified portfolio of superfoods of the highest quality such as quinoa, amaranth, sesame, cañahua and chia, to please the most discerning customers. Based on his 25 years of experience in a family business as leading producer, processor and trader of organic quinoa, Huayllani was aware of the growing demand for better quality control and safety standards required by food processors in the international market.

He sought a new challenge: In December 2011, Sindan was the first Bolivian firm to obtain the British Retail Consortium Certification (BRC v.5 Norm) for the processing and marketing of organic quinoa. This certification now allows Sindan direct access to strategic markets like baby food and gluten-free food processors, which are extremely demanding in terms of quality and safety. Sindan also obtained two additional certifications at the end of last year. ISO 22000:2005 confirms the company fulfills the requirements for a food safety management system, from reception and dried or wet cleaning and desaponization, to metal detection, and packaging and shipping of organic certified quinoa. ISO 9001:2008 certifies a proven efficient quality management system in the processing, marketing and exports of quinoa, amaranth and sesame. Huayllani and his team have commissioned the Association of Organic Producers Capura, a cooperative of organic and Fair Trade-certified Royal Quinoa farmers, to supply Sindan. The company also meets the requirements under the Norm NA NB 0038 for distribution and safe consumption of its products in the Bolivian market.

“It has been an amazing year and we feel satisfied with our accomplishments,” said Huayllani on the company’s first anniversary. “We have a competitive advantage and will continue to implement the latest methods and technology as market demands change.” Sindan’s strategy diversifying its product offering, adding other seeds like sesame and chia, and working with farmers in different regions of Bolivia will guarantee more business and development opportunities in the community. Currently, the company works with over 500 people including direct and indirect employees, and the families that produce organic and FAIRTRADE certified crops. As Sindan continues to expand their offerings, their strict standards for hygiene, safety and quality will apply to all new products. Sindan expects to reach in the next few months a processing capacity of 3,000 tonnes annually. At the moment, products are exported to the U.S., France, the Netherlands and Israel. Plans for 2012 include expanding into the domestic Bolivian market as well, launching retail packages of quinoa grain, flakes and flour, as well as grain and derivatives of cañahua, under their own label. Ensuring food security, sovereignty of their country, and Bolivian development remain a priority for Sindan. By making significant investments in their own country, Sindan has not only made outstanding returns but has also enhanced local sustainability and social responsibility. As the organic market evolves and the link from farmer to consumer grows shorter, companies such as Sindan will continue to thrive by offering specialized products of the utmost standards in product quality and sustainable company practices.

Quinoa processes evolve

By Clara Paz

Quinoa’s rising popularity has meant a better income for subsistence farmers who grow the grain in the Andean highlands. It also has brought new challenges for producers, processors and traders who are aware that unless environmentally sustainable, the boom will not last long. As reported in previous O.W.N. editions, the Bolivian organic Royal Quinoa suppliers have been working on feasible ways to improve the quinoa sector and mitigate any negative environmental impact.

On the other hand, members of the Bolivian Chamber of Royal Quinoa and other Organic Products Exporters (CABOLQUI) have been busy over the past 18 months, preparing to obtain ISO certification. Four leading exporters––Andean Valley, Irupana Andean Organic Food, Quinoabol and Sindan Organic––have been ISO certified by Canadian firm Alliance ARC. “This experience has enabled the companies to recognize the value that a quality management system can provide to significantly improve their processes,” stated CABOLQUI general manager Paola Mejia.

These firms will be at BioFach, Nuremberg, this coming February 15–18th, along with recognized gluten-free pasta manufacturer Coronilla and trading firm Quinoa Foods. The Bolivian pavilion will offer tribute to the 2013 International Year of Bolivian Royal Quinoa.

Better technology, procedures and a commitment to obtaining excellent quality Bolivian Royal quinoa, already considered of the highest quality in the international market, will improve the competitiveness of organic food processing companies in the Andean country.

Maqui Berry the queen of the South

By Chelsea Kerrington

Hailed as the ultimate “superfruit,” the maqui berry (Aristotelia Chilensis) is quickly gaining popularity among the specialty food and organic sectors. Native to Chile and southern Argentina, this antioxidant-rich berry is relatively new to the scene, although the indigenous Mapuche people are thought to have been consuming it for years as well as utilizing its healing and astringent properties. The small purplish-black berries grow to several millimeters in diameter in temperate rainforest environments, and are becoming increasingly harvested for commercial use.

The maqui berry is known for its sweet taste in addition to an extremely high level of antioxidants said to rival that of its more mainstream counterpart, the acai berry. Published ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) levels of antioxidants are under debate, with some maqui berry proponents touting levels at three times the antioxidant value of acai. Acai advocates, on the other hand, are challenging this claim and pointing out that the acai berry holds omega-3 properties, whereas the maqui berry does not.

Official numbers aside, it’s clear that the maqui berry holds impressive antioxidant values. High anthocyanin levels, which give the berries their deep purple pigment, are reported to fight cancer and inflammation. Other benefits of this powerful berry are said to include the oxidation prevention of cholesterol in the bloodstream, thus boosting cardiovascular health, as well as antibacterial properties which may help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

To get the best of super berry fruits, US based Juve Maqui Juice offers a blend of pure maqui and acai berries with blueberries, pomegranate and raspberries, presented in a 750ml dark glass bottle. Advantage Health Matters has introduced freeze dried and cold milled maqui berries, a new addition to its wide selection of superfoods, presented in a convenient and attractive re-sealable pouch.  The maqui berry is gradually conquering new venues through many reliable brands,  and more consumers are discovering the very real benefits of the small but powerful Queen berry of the South.