Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Creating Equitable
Supply Chains

Renee Dunn is the Founder and CEO of Amazi Foods – a mindful food company selling made-in-Uganda fruit snacks.

Ethical sourcing has become increasingly top of mind, but have you ever considered the gaps that remain in our international food systems? Learn more about how Amazi Foods aims to promote more equitable supply chains by promoting local industry in Uganda.

Ever heard the story of a cocoa farmer that never tasted chocolate?

Well, this anecdote goes beyond the cocoa industry – it sums up a lot about our supply chains as a whole. Those at the resource level are often disconnected from the rest of the process, completely separate from the opportunity and innovation that exists in the global market. While ethical sourcing initiatives are important, these often still create gaps in our supply chains, wherein the countries at the resource stay at the resource, and those more industrial economies hold most of the value, industry, and innovation. Oftentimes, this results in high unemployment and food waste in resource rich communities.

What does this mean? Most supply chains and production practices create inequality within our supply chains.

I became aware of this when I was living in Uganda. While studying the local entrepreneurship sector, I was blown away by their organic tropical fruits, bursting with flavors unlike back at home… but stand after stand, people traded fruits raw or looked for cheap ways of processing or exporting.

As someone who came from the wonderful world of Whole Foods, where natural product innovation blossomed on the shelf every day, I wondered why more locals weren’t tapping into the value they had in their own backyards. I came to realize that this was in large part due to the lack of market access, to the lack of transparency, and to the lack of local opportunities for industry, beyond the resource level.

Farmers were used to only trading their fruit raw, as opposed to the possible innovations that would create more opportunity locally.

Especially today, as we talk about the importance of inclusion and equity, it’s important to recognize the global power dynamics that we’ve created in our food systems. I think it’s incredible that brands are going to lengths to rethink the status quo – from upcycling, to ethical sourcing, and beyond.

When I thought about the sustainability of it all, it became clear that the current relationships we have through Fair Trade and sourcing practices still continued to uphold the gaps between source and consumer, only including resource-rich countries at the resource level.

At Amazi Foods, we attempt to shift that. We partner with farmers groups and small businesses in Uganda to not only source ethically, but also to produce locally, to keep the wealth creation and value addition processes – all the way to the final product – in the communities from which we’re sourcing. In doing so, we’re on track to create over 150 jobs and source from 1000s of farmers. This not only supports farmers in creating more revenue streams and earning a higher income, it also addresses local unemployment and educates on market opportunities beyond their own.

That said, this supply chain took us time, and I can’t imagine everyone will have the desire or know-how to build out production in other countries.

But now that we’ve become aware of the gaps, what can we do?

Try to find opportunities for increased transparency. Is there a way you can connect further with the suppliers that you source from? Educate them on the implications of your supply chain? Involve them in your story, let them see the final goods?

Look to other brands doing similar things. Ask them how they started. Most didn’t start all at once – they may have had production partners in other countries to help get initial production off the ground, for example. You can also use brands (like Amazi!) as co-packers or suppliers. They have the production resources and supply chain relationships already set up.

Find local suppliers in the countries from which you source, or see if there’s an opportunity to hand off an additional part of the process. For example – do you source fresh ginger from somewhere? Can you work with any local organizations that would help the growers produce the ginger root into powder?

Ultimately, my hope is that access and transparency will spur more local innovation and industry, and lessen the gaps between those countries that innovate and those stuck at the source. Little steps to involve those at the resource level go a long way!

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