When Sienna, daughter of entrepreneur Viviana Soruco turned 11 months and was introduced to more solid foods, she experienced severe gastroenteritis and asthma. In spite of consulting several specialists and taking all prescribed medications her condition only got worse. Desperate to find a solution for her daughter’s medical problems, Viviana embarked with a group of nutritionists, food engineers and mothers in similar circumstances, in a long and meticulous journey to learn about foods and how they affect our health.
Today, the civil engineer turned food expert is the CEO of Mankeri, manufacturer of high quality organic certified, gluten-free and hypoallergenic baby foods under the brand WAWA. Foods are made with exclusive formulations that include quinoa and other highly nutritious ancient Andean grains and a carefully selected combination of vegetables and fruits to achieve a balanced diet when gradually introduced to young digestive systems.
“In my research I found out that quinoa and amaranth are the closest foods to breast milk. They contribute to the adequate development of the baby’s immune and neurological systems,” says Viviana.
In just four days after Viviana cut off milk and all other foods from her daughter’s diet, except the home made quinoa milk she prepared, the constant diarrhoea immediately stopped. It took a while, but her daughter fully recovered eating food only based on Viviana’s recipes.
With support of a pediatrician, Viviana and her team continued developing a concept to properly introduce new foods to babies and toddlers, avoiding foods known as allergens. “Mankeri was born from the support group I started to share with other mothers the results of our research. We knew thousands of parents in Bolivia, Germany and other countries (Viviana and her husband spend time between Bolivia and Germany) would be going through the same situation we did with our daughter.”
Opening a baby food processing plant in La Paz to make the carefully selected baby food formulations available to more people was a goal. Mankeri imported state-of-the-art equipment and soon started a small production runs, testing the line in the local market. Winning a national competition for entrepreneurship and obtaining second place at an international entrepreneurship award sponsored by the BiD Network in the Netherlands generated media exposure and high consumer interest.
Mankeri’s baby nutrition concept is based on four main pillars: First, foods with high protein content provided by organic certified quinoa and amaranth, a superior vegetable protein and the closest to mother’s milk, ingredients usually not present in other baby food brand in the market; introduction of hypoallergenic fruits and vegetables; gluten-free products and free from additives, fillers and other substances; and the use of whole foods only.
“Since we avoid all known allergens in our formulations, the risks to develop gastric and immune disorders are drastically reduced,” said Viviana. “Our products provide proteins, vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates, a complete meal.
“A combination of our four current products offers up to 70% of any baby’s nutritional requirements from 6 to 24 months. And like baby Sienna they are ideal for babies suffering from celiac disease, allergies and other food intolerances, autism and malnourishment and in need of a balanced diet with whole, natural and organic certified ingredients.
“For parents finding the right time to introduce solid food to a baby is very important. If they start too early, the baby’s digestive and immune systems are not ready and it may trigger the risk of allergies, and other health problems. If parents wait too long after six months, the baby will miss out on additional nutrients needed for proper growth and development. It is also important for a baby to explore and accept gradually new tastes and textures. My goal is to share this nutrition concept with all children in Bolivia and other parts of the world.”
Currently, Mankeri offers two main product lines under the WAWA brand: fruit preserves and vegetable purées with quinoa and amaranth, presented in convenient 125g containers imported from Europe and specially designed for baby foods to guarantee protection from ultraviolet rays and oxygen.
WAWA is sold in Bolivia directly by Mankeri. Bolivian firm Andean Valley has added WAWA into its product range of gluten-free quinoa products for the whole family, that include pizza dough, pastas, vegetarian burgers, flan and pudding. Andean Valley is operating in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and now Peru. Mankeri welcomes international distributors and other private label agreements for WAWA baby foods in North America and other parts of the world.