AACE Foods is a Nigerian food processing firm that buys several commodities such as ginger, pepper and soybeans from agribusiness clusters. Co-founder and director Ndidi Nwuneli will join the 2SCALE conference on October 27. We asked her about her experiences with 2SCALE and her future plans for the company.
“We source raw material from over 1,000 smallholder farmers across Nigeria, in partnerships with community groups and non-profit associations. Using semi-automated manufacturing processes and mostly women labourers, the company transforms this raw material into spices and complementary food.
The finished products are then delivered customers in customized branded bags ranging from 5kg-25kg. The retail products are distributed to final consumers through supermarkets, hypermarkets, and open market distributors, as well as through the AACE Foods Mama program and youth empowerment initiatives.”
When and how was the company established?
“AACE Foods became operational in May 2010, as an indigenous Nigerian company. The passion and sense of urgency behind the creation of AACE Foods was motivated by three facts:
1) According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, which was the most current as at that time, 41% of Nigerian children under 5 years old were classified as stunted (low weight for age), 14% wasted (low weight for height) and 23% underweight (low weight for age of reference population.
2). Researchers at the University of Agriculture Abeokuta estimate that 40-60% of the fruits and vegetables grown and harvested by smallholder farmers across the county are wasted annually.
3) 90% of the processed food consumed in Nigeria is imported. AACE Foods directly addresses these first two challenges and capitalizes on the third opportunity, by processing and packaging nutritious and tasty food made from the best of West Africa’s spices, herbs, cereals, fruits and vegetables, to improve the nutritional status of Nigerians and replace imports.”
In which ways do you partner with the 2SCALE program?
“AACE works with 2SCALE to sustainably source raw materials from smallholder farmers. Through this partnership, AACE Foods has sourced raw materials from five clusters, providing training, access to microfinance, packaging technology and support to the farmers, who have in turn provided high quality produce at competitive prices. The 2SCALE partnership has enabled AACE to extend its product offerings to include turmeric, moringa and ginger, all sourced from 2SCALE managed clusters.”
How was the business financed?
“AACE Foods was a winner of the Africa Diaspora Marketplace Competition in 2010, which provided some seed money, matched by its founders to establish the business. Since then, AACE has benefited from support of private investors and international development partners.”
What are your main markets?
‘Nigeria represents 99% of our demand to-date. We are also generating significant demand in Europe and North America. We market through sales representatives, online social media platforms and media engagement via TV and radio and word of mouth. We have secured a lot of repeat customers and we continue to grow our base of loyal customers.”
Do you have plans for future growth?
“By 2020 we plan to be recognized as one of the leading food companies in Nigeria, with a focus on the bottom of the pyramid consumers. We will also continue to serve commercial and institutional customers, working mothers from the middle and low income category, development agencies and state governments.
We will broaden our reach across West Africa and make significant inroads into the diaspora populations in the United States and Europe. We are looking at expanding our financial capacity and hope to secure additional funding to reach our goal.”
How many people do you employ?
‘We presently have a staff strength of 40 people. Approximately 60% of our team is under 30 and we employ these young people in the areas of sales and marketing, accounting, administration, supply chain management, production, and operations. We currently have 17 women employees and they play significant roles in sales and marketing, production and quality control. We have worked with women and youth who are very vulnerable.
The idea behind this was to find people who can impact and help them achieve their potentials and we are happy we can do that. We offer them a hot meal, health insurance, training and exposure. Many of these employees are unskilled with limited education, and AACE Foods has invested in providing them with skills and basic education.”
Will your company be able to continue and even grow after the 2SCALE program stops in 2017?
“Yes, 2SCALE has built in a sustainability component and has gradually enabled AACE to have direct relationships with the clusters. In addition, AACE has other organizations that it partners with to engage with farmers.”