Improving nutrition and smallholders’ incomes with biotechnology

Let’s accelerate and Rethink Tomorrow

Improving nutrition and smallholders

While malnutrition causes stunting in 40% of under-fives in Ethiopia, local crops go unsold. Biotechnology can help unlock the nutritional benefits of Ethiopian-grown ingredients enabling healthier lives and providing smallholders with a steady income all year round. Novozymes is involved in a project to do just that with biscuits. Right now, the project is ready to scale the production

Let’s rethink nutrition. 

Malnutrition and market access: interconnected challenge

Malnutrition has a devastating effect on many children in Ethiopia. Almost 40% of under-fives in the country are stunted, while 28% of child deaths are associated with malnutrition. Malnutrition rates in pregnant women are also high, impacting not just the mothers but their unborn children. At the same time, nutritious crops from more than 13 million farmers go unsold. That’s because market barriers prevent these smallholders from taking part in commercial value chains. Isn’t it time for a rethink?


Maximizing the nutritional value of local crops with biotechnology

As part of the Sustainable Food Partnership (SFP), we set out to develop an affordable and nutritious biscuit. The goal was to tackle poor nutrition in Ethiopian women and children. The biscuit needed to be locally sourced and produced, so it could support inclusive value chains in the country. It also had to appeal to Ethiopian consumers and meet clear nutritional targets in terms of protein and sugar content. And that’s where our biosolutions come in. They deliver a range of flavor and sensorial benefits that help tailor the biscuits to the tastebuds of Ethiopian consumers.

Maximizing the nutritional value of local crops with biotechnology

Partnering for impact

SFP is a consortium of local stakeholders, businesses and a humanitarian non-governmental organization. Its members are DanChurchAid, Arla Foods Ingredients, Novozymes, Engsko, GC Rieber Compact, Bopinc and Moya Food Complex. Each one of these players brings unique expertise to the project. This partnership approach creates the right conditions for success. For example, DanChurchAid acts as project lead, defining clear roles and responsibilities. The partners work closely together, pooling their knowledge and fostering innovation. That allows them to work effectively towards solutions to the complex challenges they face. 

The role of our enzymes

Sweetness with less added sugar

Our Optiva® LS solution releases the natural sweetness in starch. That means the biscuits need far less added sugar. That doesn’t just make them healthier. It also makes them cheaper to produce, as sugar is an expensive ingredient


A texture consumers love

The locally-sourced, high-protein chickpea flour in the biscuits is great for nutrition. But high protein levels can make the biscuits become hard when baked. To counter this, we use Sensea® Biscuit SF. It gives them a crispy, crunchy texture consumers love. 


High protein with no bitterness

Many plant-based proteins - including chickpeas - are prone to bitterness. Masking this bitterness with sugar would make the biscuits less healthy. So instead we use Flavourzyme®, which removes – rather than masks – the bitter flavor.


And wait there is more: Good for farmers, good for the environment

The locally-sourced chickpeas on which the biscuit recipe is based aren’t just nutritious. They connect the smallholders who grow them to manufacturers, bringing them into a sustainable value chain that secures them a steady income all year round. Chickpeas are also a climate-resilient crop that can be used in rotation systems. This is better for farmers and better for the soil. 

"This project is proof of how effective strong partnerships can be at solving the world’s problems. It connects    sustainability and science to make the most of natural local resources and meet Ethiopian needs. We’re proud that our biosolutions are contributing to its success. "

Adam Vestergaard Diggle, Business Unit Director - Baking, Novozymes.

Adam Benjamin Diggle

Working to bring the biscuit to market

Currently the biscuit has been developed, all the go-to-market material is ready, and the Ethiopian farmers are integrated into the value-chain. The final task is now to develop the right set-up to scale the production, so the biscuits can reach the Ethiopian consumer at scale. 

Ethiopean biscuits

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