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The sustainability case story of Baïa Food — podcast

Learn about the sustainability efforts of Baïa Food, a startup that recently became B-Corp certified and offers European consumers with miracle berries ingredients sustainably supplied from Ghana.

With sustainability being an important cause for many across all industries, stakeholders are often incentivized to act and tackle the 3 pillars of sustainability: people, planet and profit. For this podcast episode, we learn more about the sustainability efforts of the start-up Baïa Food.

Tune in to hear more about:

  • Baïa Food’s vision, missions & goals, and how sustainability connect them
  • How to become B-corp certified
  • Supply chain and sustainability considerations – bringing miracle berries from Ghana to consumers in Europe
  • How collaborations and partnerships can drive sustainable innovation
  • How Baïa Food measures its impact and educates its consumers
  • The importance of industry honesty towards both successes and failures

Hyperlinks:

Guest

Speaker circled  (6).png Loan Bensadon
CSO & Co-founder of
Baïa Food  

Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:06
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast. From responsible sourcing to supply chain logistics, this dedicated podcast addresses some of the industry's greatest challenges and champions the stories of sustainability success. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content & conference manager.

Natalia 00:31
Hello, and welcome to another Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series episode. Today we'll be talking about the sustainability efforts of the startup Baïa Food and how they became B Corp certified. I'm delighted to be joined by Loan Bensadon Naeder, who is CSO & Co-founder of Baïa Food. Thanks so much for joining me today, Loan.

Loan 00:49
Hello, Natalia. Thank you very much for inviting me to this podcast.

Natalia 00:53
So, to get us started, could you explain to our listeners more about Baïa Food's vision, missions, goals and how the sustainability interlink with that?

Loan 01:02
Yes, sure. Natalia, our vision is that today our diets are quite poor in key nutrients and certain vitamins, minerals, polyunsaturated fatty fatty acid, prebiotic fibre, and also in phyto actives with health benefits that protect the human body against premature ageing and, and diseases such as cancer, for example. The food we eat should be healthier and less full of ingredients that don't provide benefits to the consumers, and in many cases can have a detrimental effect on their health whenever consumed, such as sugar or artificial sweeteners, for example. In Baïa Food, we are on a mission to help people eat healthier, without having to sacrifice the taste we arguably, humans love the most, which is sweet. And we have a very special ally in this war against sugar overconsumption and the use of these not so innocuous, artificial sweeteners and this ally's miraculous. It is a very unique protein found in an exotic West African so called the miracle berry. We have obtained the novel food exclusive authorization to commercialise our proprietary ingredient DMB as food supplements in the EU; it's a full spectrum whole fruit freeze dried powder that has the ability to make sour and acidic food stays deliciously sweet, without adding calories or altering the product we want to sweeten. Miracle acts as a filter on the tongue masking sourness, enhancing sweetness. And you know, for us the concept of sustainability has been part of the whole business model since the beginning of the project and the company back in 2013. When we decided that we were going to bring the huge potential of miracle to the consumers in Europe, we realised that we had to establish a scalable and reliable supply chain from Ghana, in this case, to Europe. At this time, the few small holders cultivating the berry had very poor resources to maintain their farms, and that they couldn't meet standards to supply the quality we need. We took the decision to avoid the use of any type of chemical such as pesticides and fertilisers in the farms, and we inform the farmers that the fruits with residues will not be acceptable. We first partnered with the German GIZ, and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana under the market oriented agricultural programme. And then with the company HPW fresh and ripe, a fruit processor, which is now a key partner and shareholder of our company. Together, we help small holders improve their production methods and train them in good agricultural practices. And we develop the SOPs together to obtain organic fruit with low microbial levels and high yields. Besides the new forms that we have been establishing use agricultural land, and we store it with a multi cropping model, where the miracle berries being planted with coconut, banana, papaya mango trees, as well as nitrogen fixing plants. And we maintain 10% of this farm as a biodiversity hotspot for pollinators and other animals, for example.

Natalia 04:03
Wow, that's really great to hear all your work you're doing with the farmers to incentivize more sustainable farming practices. And I know you've recently became B Corp certified as well. Could you please explain a little bit more to our listeners? What does that mean for a company to obtain B Corp status? What are the steps involved in the process? And what advice would you give to other companies trying to reach a status as well?

Loan 04:27
Yes, indeed, we are B Corp certified. And for us, it's a great honour to be part of the growing B-corp community, which actually is formed by small startup like Baïa Food and big corporation like Danone, for example. Although in multinational companies, every country has to obtain its own certification by applying independently, which is something that we think it's very interesting and makes sense. As we see it, it's a way to show the consumers that we do our homework in terms of sustainability and sustainable practices in our business models. And that the business is not only focused on generating profit, which of course is needed, but that in the decision making, the welfare of the planet and how we exploit the resources we do with business with is taken into consideration. And in my opinion, in young companies, sustainability must be imprinted in the DNA. It is not acceptable anymore to look away from how the raw materials we use are extracted. We need to be part of the solution to business as usual, and not make the problem bigger. To obtain the B Corp certification is a tedious process. And you have to dedicate time and efforts to it. You have to make changes in your internal organisation, involve your employees, create new protocols and processes and ask yourself many, many questions about how you're really running things. Because sometimes you think you do the way and then when when you're confronted to questions, you actually see that it's the other way around. And then once you answer all the questions, you have also to submit all the documentation they asked you, and you have the calls with the auditors, and you enter it then into the evaluation process, which takes several months. My advice is to take it as an internal project and give it priority. And also assign a project manager to it, which will be in charge of the sustainable and ethical practices inside the company, and give this person the responsibility and resources it needs to do the job as well as a lot of trust, because this audit touches every corner and every edge of the company.

Natalia 06:31
Well thank you so much for sharing more with our listeners, it's definitely helpful for them to hear directly from a company that will obtained their B Corp certification. And it's definitely interesting for consumers as well as to be aware of the business sustainability plans and impact. Now thinking about supply chain and your operations, how do you ensure sustainability and it's three pillars of people, planet and profit are considered throughout all of your processes and collaboration efforts?

Loan 06:58
Yes, in our case, we have started from scratch a new supply chain from miracle berries in Ghana to a novel food ingredient be commercialised in Europe. So we have really given a lot of thought to how to establish the supply chain and make it as ethical as more holders in West Africa as possible, which are, in our opinion, the most important part of the chain, I would say, because without them, there is no product. In the beginning, we did it on our own as entrepreneurs and a startup, I myself went to visit the farmers in south of Ghana. And I established, or what I would say was, a personal bonds, and kept direct contact, for example via WhatsApp with some of the farmers. I mentioned earlier, the GIZ, which maybe listeners don't know who they are, it's a German cooperation company, which is funded by the German government but which established in different countries and helps companies develop businesses and really try to help to develop the economy of the country by attracting both investment and talent. So the GIZ helped us very much in doing that, and thanks to their experience in the field and we work directly with local consultants, such as Sedem Kumahor, which I would like to thank here. To have a personal contact with the field and the people working the land makes you understand very well what are their needs, and what does it take to cultivate a certain crop in a specific region. So we established a price per kilo for example, based in in their needs and requests. And we have maintained that price ever since. We considered that this part should not be negotiable. And our task is to generate value in the transformation and the value proposition for the final customer. Then, when the company started raising money and tracted investor and strategic partners, such as HPW, we choose them carefully. HPW is fair trade and zero waste company and they use solar and biogas in their facilities. And they use only organic cultivation practices. They are the ones establishing the new farms with multicolor pig methods. For example. In this sense, we only partner and leave key activities of our business model to companies that share our vision and make things correctly in our opinion, or how we see things. Finally, the profit. Well, we're not there yet. But we are sure that such an amazing product such like DNB with neurokinin will have success in the market, starting with health related applications. And we will make sure that this happens. So for us profit is least but not last. And we're really working on it that now we have novel food authorization and we are developing our commercial plants.

Natalia 09:38
Thanks for explaining more about the GIZ, we'll make sure to add them into the show notes for our listeners interested in learning more about them. It's also really great to hear more about your sustainability efforts and also honesty in regards to the profit pillar of sustainability, that's very refreshing. But now thinking of your consumers, tell me, how do you educate your consumers and customers about any of the lessons learned and successes from your sustainability goals and efforts?

Loan 10:06
Yes, so we try to educate the consumers by integrated sustainability in our value proposition. We emphasise the value of having a product that has been, for example cultivated in its native area, in this case, Ghana, providing benefit to the rural communities that have traditionally been cultivating the scrub that we use organic cultivation practices, and that the product is actually free of pesticides, of heavy metals. And that the product does not contribute to deforestation, which I think, it's a very important part of it. When you establish a new establish a new supply chain, and you believe that the product can have a lot of benefits to the consumers, you also have to really keep in mind that if the product is successful in the market, we have to scale the production. And scale in production might mean affecting negatively the environment where you're cultivating it. So this is something also really you have to take in mind. And that's why we decided to maintain the cultivation and get our supply from the indigenous country where scaling production is much easier. You don't need fertiliser, maybe some companies will use it, but you don't need pesticides and there are other ways to tackle for example, pests such as fruit fly, that affects not only our fruit, but also many other tropical fruits. And you know, consumers are looking for natural and sustainable products. And they trust products with a certification like organic fairtrade and companies also with certification like B Corp, capable of demonstrating with real content, and I'm talking about marketing, and maybe later we can talk also about about that, that they are trying to do things right. And they say trying because sometimes is not so easy to do it. But you need to try. And you need also to demonstrate that you're trying, not only saying that you're doing it, but also showing how you're doing it.

Natalia 12:07
Yes, I guess leading by example, doing more than just saying. Well, thank you so much Loan for taking the time to talk with us today. Do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our audience before we end the show?

Loan 12:20
I think that we need to be very honest. Yes, I want to emphasise on honesty, not only with our consumers, but also with ourselves as entrepreneurs in my case, or as businessman and women, of the challenges of having a profitable business with extremely sustainable practices, taking it to the extreme, because it's very important that we're not only on the surface, and only just as a tool to convince customers that we are are doing things right. We really need to go to the extreme and do it as good as it gets. And it's sometimes difficult to compete with companies that are not spending resources and giving importance to having a positive impact on the planet, and stakeholders in the supply chains. Think that marketing is the most powerful tool to achieve our goal of showing our efforts to our community or potential clients and customers. But also not only our successes, but also our pains in succeeding in having 100% sustainable businesses. I also think that the consumer will always favour companies with values and purpose, trying to do things right. And showing it than others who don't do anything. You know, consumers are changing, are asking for better companies. And young companies like us have a very big opportunity to lead the way and to make other multinationals change their practices. And that's how we're doing it.

Natalia 13:50
Well, that's a really great way of ending the show. Consumers are changing, consumers are demanding better practices. And yes, honesty, it's definitely important, and sometimes you can learn much more from going through failures, rather than just looking at success stories. It's a very hard industry to succeed in being an entrepreneur and making it. So, yes, I mean, congratulations on becoming B Corp certified. And thank you so much for joining us today Loan.

Loan 14:22
Thank you very much.

Natalia 14:24
Thank you. And thank you also to our listeners for tuning in. If you're interested in learning more about Baïa Food make sure to check out their website that's available in the hyperlink in the show notes. And that's it for now, and see you next time.

Vitafoods Insights 14:41
Thank you for tuning in. And don't forget to check the show notes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today's podcast, as well as any sponsorship opportunities. The Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast happens monthly, so be sure to stay tuned, subscribe and even suggest the series to a friend.

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