Specialty Food Magazine

Winter 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1061591

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Page 32 of 127

L isa Curtis, 30, starts her day with a tablespoon of green moringa powder added to oatmeal with almond butter, chia seeds, and baobab, an African superfruit. It's the moringa that gives her energy, she says, something she discovered in 2010 when she was in the Peace Corps, in Niger, West Africa. Curtis got her first taste of moringa after she told some women at the com- munity health center that she felt weak, malnourished, and they suggested she try it. She mixed the green leaves with a West African peanut snack called kuli-kuli and soon felt her vigor return. And yet moringa is caffeine-free. She had to learn more. Moringa trees grow like weeds in tropical regions, are drought-resistant, and for thousands of years have been used in Ayurvedic medicine. The nutrient-dense leaves are a significant source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium, protein, iron, and fiber. Studies have shown moringa to have anti-inf lammatory and antioxidant properties. The taste is earthy and a bit peppery, similar to arugula. Curtis' Peace Corps stint was cut short after Al Qaeda kidnapped and killed two Frenchmen in Niger and everyone had to be evacuated. She vowed to return, especially to help the village women who had helped her. "The best advice I got was, 'Before you start a startup, go work at a startup,'" she says. Thus, for three years she worked in Oakland, Calif. at Mosaic, a solar finance company where she was the communications director. By the end of 2013 she felt ready to quit her day job and work full-time on Kuli Kuli Foods. Crowdfunding campaigns helped launch the company in 2014. Curtis spent six months doing demos and convincing store owners to carry moringa, sold as a green powder and boost for juices, smoothies, and guacamole. "I wanted to connect consumers in the U.S. looking for healthy things to eat with farmers looking for ways to earn an income and nourish themselves," she says. Curtis worked with a team that trained moringa farmers how to wash and dry the leaves, then pound them into a powder. The raw product is organic, vegan, and non-GMO. Through investors, she raised another $4.25 million to expand the sup- ply chain to 13 different countries. More than two million moringa trees have been planted, employing roughly 1,300 farmers, primarily women. Last year, Kuli Kuli Foods had $5 million in revenue. There are 15 SKUs sold in 7,000 stores nationwide, including energy bars, teas, and shots in f lavors like Coconut Lime, Raspberry, and Ginger Lemon. Curtis is frequently on the road and if she forgets to pack moringa—or enthusiastically gives all her packets away—she feels a loss of energy, which reinforces how she knows she's on the right path. Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli Foods CITIZENSHIP — 2010 Lisa Curtis joins the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa; tastes moringa leaves for the first time. — 2011 Curtis is evacuated from Niger after a terrorist attack, begins work at Mosaic, a solar finance startup, in Oakland, Calif. — 2012 Curtis recruits cofounders to begin consumer testing of moringa at farmers markets. — 2013 Quits Mosaic to work full- time on launching Kuli Kuli Foods; crowdfunding campaign raises nearly $53,000 to produce Moringa Superfood Bars, introduced at Oakland Whole Foods Market. — 2014 Kuli Kuli Foods launches as a company; crowdfunding raises an additional $350,000 via Agfunder. — 2015 Kuli Kuli Foods announces an initiative with Whole Foods, the Clinton Foundation's Haiti Program, and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to plant hundreds of moringa trees in Haiti and sell a Moringa Green Energy Shot made with Haiti moringa. — 2016 Nationwide launch with Whole Foods as well as Safeway/Albertsons; closes $4.25 million Series A funding. — 2018 Curtis is named one of Forbes' top 30 social entrepreneurs under 30 years old. HIGHLIGHTS 30 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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