AACE agroprocessing locally sourced foods, Nigeria
AACE Foods is an indigenous Nigerian company established in November 2009. They process, package and distribute nutritious and tasty food products made from the best of West Africa’s herbs, vegetables and cereals. The product line consists of spices, seasonings, snacks and complementary food that excite and satisfy institutional and retail customers.
Optimising quality control and security of supply are the main commercial drivers for AACE, achieved by building sustainable, robust systems for sourcing from local suppliers.
Additional returns will come from being an integrated and inclusive business in the Nigerian food processing and branded foods market. The emphasis on local sourcing, processing, and distribution, combined with local sales at affordable prices for the mass market, provides AACE opportunities for competitive differentiation in a retail sector that is currently dominated by imported food products and raw materials. Branding with ‘Produced in Nigeria’ will also help build customer loyalty. A further driver is the potential to stimulate demand for other related products offered by the business.
By developing a supply chain that directly sources produce from smallholder farmers and cooperative groups in rural communities across Nigeria, and processing and distributing products in and for the Nigerian market, AACE aims to generate multiple income-earning opportunities.
Not only is AACE likely to directly employ at least 65 full time employees over the next five years, it also aims to provide improved opportunities and security for 1,000 farmers. The current agricultural supply system is not only inefficient for AACE but results in insecurity and loss of income for farmers. A considerable proportion of produce may simply rot, without being sold or during transport to market. AACE inclusive business model enables farmers to obtain predictability of sales and incremental income from AACE purchases. Partnership with local NGOs intends to help build farmer capacity and productivity. It is estimated, that over three years approximately 1,000 farmers will be involved in the supply chain (either directly or through farming cooperatives and rural microfinance associations).
AACE provides opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs as well by working via local representatives to sort and grade produce, and through third-party transporters to convey the produce to its factory in Lagos State. AACE also engages distributors for its finished products, printers and packaging manufacturers. There is thus growing scope for micro-entrepreneurs and small enterprises to engage in the expanding value chain.
In addition to these gains for producers, there is potential for a positive impact on nutrition through the introduction of nutritious foods for children – and on the environment. AACE already uses re-used glass jars, and offers its commercial clients rebates for returning plastic containers for re-use. It aims to develop environmental best practices in its manufacturing operations, minimising waste, using low-energy devices, and recycling water it is using.
Innovation and scale
AACE’s inclusive business model can be considered innovative within the Nigerian context in two key areas. Firstly, the company plans to demonstrate the viability of sourcing raw materials locally and creating new supply and distribution chains. Secondly, AACE offers innovative products at affordable prices to the mass market, thus reducing dependency of retailers and consumers on foreign imports of jams, spices, spreads and complementary food for babies and toddlers.
Objectives of Facility engagement
In order to build an integrated value chain for fruits and vegetables, support from the Business Innovation Facility focuses on three key areas:
- Access to technical expertise in the area of food production and innovations in food processing to design and implement an efficient production system.
- Assistance in developing a robust supply chain strategy for local sourcing - i.e. identifying clusters of small holder farmers, assessing the existing production capacity, and developing a strategy for reliable smallholder production capacity and sales.
- Support to design and launch a marketing and branding strategy in order to effectively introduce its products to the consumer mass market. This type of support is needed as local consumers tend to show some resistance/concerns about buying Nigerian products instead of imported ones.
Since launching in 2010, AACE Foods has consistently increased production and sales volumes of its spices. Support from the Business Innovation Facility included a supply chain study which helped to develop strong ties with cooperatives and smallholder groups in Northern Nigeria. Ginger and chilli pepper are now sourced locally which in turn has reduced purchasing costs per kg by 20-30%. In order to accommodate the anticipated growth over the next few years the company has acquired a new permanent factory site just outside Lagos state.
AACE Foods sources its products from over 10,000 smallholder farmers in rural communities across Nigeria and West Africa in value chains that include Maize, Ginger, Chili, Turmeric, Onions, Soy Beans, Cowpea, Peanut etc.
The company invests resources into cultivating relationships with farmer clusters. They train, facilitate micro-finance and provide smallholder farmers with storage technology and inputs. This direct relationship has enabled AACE to build reliable sources of raw materials and offer very competitive prices to their customers.