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A case for public private sector partnership for nutrition value chain development in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa
7. Dec 2016

Biofortified Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) Purée for Bakery Applications in Kenya

In Asia, most sweet potato is used in processed products or animal feed. In Africa, by contrast, most sweet potato is consumed boiled or steamed, which is very healthy but limits the market reach and results in large post-harvest losses of this nutritious but perishable crop [1]. One strategic question for the utilisation of biofortified, vitamin A rich orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) is how processing can expand the nutrition benefits of biofortification to wider consumer groups and in the process generate additional incentives for producers to adopt biofortified varieties.

Processed products offer an opportunity to reach the rapidly growing urban market with convenient yet still nutritious OFSP-based food. What has been missing so far is an intermediary product, produced close to rural sweet potato production zones, that provides opportunities for smallholder suppliers and stabilises sweet potato for efficient onward processing in urban centres. Given the current price of sweet potato roots, the use of OFSP flour as a substitute for wheat flour is not cost-effective in Africa but in many settings the use of OFSP in purée form (steamed and mashed roots) is economically advantageous.

Considerable experience has been gained in Rwanda on the manufacture and marketing of bakery products in which 20-45 per cent of wheat flour in baked products has been replaced by OFSP purée [2]. Baked products (bread, donuts, biscuits) made using OFSP purée are highly acceptable to consumers [2]. OFSP purée has the potential to be a breakthrough technology for the expanded use of OFSP in Africa, providing opportunity for smallholder suppliers. A major bottleneck to expanding use of purée is the inconvenience of having to prepare, transport and store the purée under local conditions. In response to this challenge, the International Potato Center (CIP) is working with commercial partners to developing shelf-storable purée at room temperature for at least 4 months that is of high quality and meets food safety and nutrition standards. Developing this product is a key contribution to the development of commercial pathways for scaling up OFSP, and is supported by the UKAid-funded Scaling up Sweet potato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN) program (2013-2018).

Progress in Kenya

In Kenya, CIP is working with Tuskys Supermarkets Ltd, the country’s largest supermarket chain with 52 stores country-wide and outlets in neighbouring countries, to develop bread and other baked products based on OFSP purée. These new products offer healthier alternatives to the existing product range – having lower sugar and fat contents in addition to vitamin A. CIP has assembled a business partnership linking Tuskys’ urban bakeries to Organi Ltd, a new OFSP purée manufacturing company in the sweet potato production hub of rural Western Kenya, and Euro-Ingredients Ltd, a Nairobi-based food technology firm advising the food processing industry on innovative food products.

The process of building this partnership offers important lessons. CIP had a catalytic role in demonstrating the feasibility and consumer acceptability of OFSP purée based bread. Tuskys quickly saw the potential and was willing to invest in new product lines in consultation with Euro-Ingredients. Yet, purée supply chain management continued to be challenging and CIP facilitated the production of quality OFSP roots by smallholder farmers as well as technical training of Organi Ltd for purée manufacturing using improved puréeing, packaging and storage technologies as they were developed.

The first OFSP bread sales in Nairobi started in June 2015 in 6 Tuskys stores. By December 2015, CIP food scientists had developed a vacuum-packed purée that could store 4 months at 23°C using the preservatives benzoate, sorbate, and citric acid. But moving from lab to factory production requires having good food safety standards in place and appropriate short-term storage capability. In 2016, emphasis has been placed on improving efficiency and lowering the cost of the purée by measures such as improved root washing and use a stronger puréeing machine so that unpeeled roots could be used to make a high fiber, quality OFSP purée.

Evidence and Implications

By July 1st 2016, the major technical bottlenecks in the OFSP purée value chain were resolved through innovation and improved management. Lab analysis has found that OFSP purée bread is a good source of pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) providing 50 Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) per 30g slice. A child needs 400 RAEs of vitamin A per day.

Production and sales have been picking up, but are still at an early stage. Over the past 15 months, Organi Ltd has produced and sold 72 tons of purée, and today Tuskys is selling more than 3,000 loaves of OFSP bread per day in 18 stores. In fact, OFSP bread fetches a 10 percent premium over regular wheat bread, indicating that biofortified crops can indeed earn a market premium if utilised in an effective commercial arrangement that is responsive to consumer preferences and makes use of advanced food technologies. This progress can be further scaled out and the UKAid-funded SUSTAIN program will continue to work with commercial partners in Kenya and other African countries. This effort is further supported through research under the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded SASHA project. Additional innovations using OFSP from smallholder production include the production of low-salt and low-fat OFSP crisps by Universal Industries Ltd Malawi in collaboration with CIP. Importantly, commercial partners such as Tuskys are engaged in an increasingly broad range of business linkages with small-scale suppliers, and the commercialisation of OFSP will benefit from being part of such larger initiatives.



  1. Low, J.W., et al., Sweetpotato in Sub-Saharan Africa, in The Sweetpotato, G. Loebenstein and G. Thottappilly, Editors. 2009, Springer Science+Business Media B.V.: Dordrecht. p. 359-390.
  2. Sindi, K., et al., Improvement of Processing Technology Research and Utilization of Sweetpotato and its Derived Foods in China and Rwanda, Chapter 47 in Potato and Sweetpotato in Africa: Transforming the Value Chains for Food and Nutrition Security, J. Low, et al., Editors. 2015, CABI: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. p. 478-490.

This blog is part of the December 2016 series on Inclusive Business models delivering nutrition, in partnership with DFID and GAIN. Don’t miss the webinar series in January 2017 on Marketing nutrition to the BOP.