Making People Nutrient Replete in Africa

Making People Nutrient Replete in Africa

South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The new paradigm - make human beings nutrient replete and thus physiologically functional.

We want to help decision makers better understand nutritional issues, to fix our food chain so that all human beings can become nutrient replete.
The e’Pap technology approach shows how it is possible to bring a human being to nutrient repleteness, cost effectively.

We are managing our enormous planetary challenges – this will assist us to create a World where poverty and suffering on the scale we see “becomes history”.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our innovation changes the outcome of nutritional interventions by defining a new objective - nutrient repleteness. Moving away from activities that deliver part solutions e.g. stomach filling, our approach changes the “rules”. The result - all decisions related to solutions are dictated by an objective that is designed to achieve nutrient repleteness. Nutrient repleteness encourages a holistic approach to solutions that include changing the way food is grown, processed, distributed and prepared. It encourages new scientific approaches to fortification that mimic nature to ensure bioavailability of nutrients. Components of the nutrition agenda have become self-serving. The result" outcomes are confused and distorted by agendas that have nothing to do with the objective of a healthy human being. The examples are endless. Commercial food production focuses on yield. Nutrient content plays no role in quality assessment. Food safety in food processing focuses on pathogens, rather than how the nutrients are refined out of food. Thus food safety tends to ignore health challenges caused by nutrient deficiencies. High temperature cooking destroys sensitive added nutrients such as vitamin A. Bread and maize fortification do not address this issue. Fortification programs that use nutrient forms with less than 2% absorption to the body are implemented even when the results are known to be ineffective. Our innovation necessitates the reforms called for by the Lancet in all sectors of the nutrition industry so that healthy physiologically functional human beings result.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We manufacture and distribute different forms of nutrient dense foods that are used to address nutrient deficiencies Our project includes: Technology Development Production Distribution Marketing Selling Outcome based Research Developing and training Community based Social Entrepreneurs Product is manufactured in our factory in South Africa and sold through community based distribution structures into 15 countries in Africa. Our products are used in the health sector, early childhood development, orphan support, school feeding, hospices, corporate wellness programs, sport, senior citizen programs, and disaster feeding programs. A large part of our time is spent selling the benefits of nutrient repleteness to the media, faith based organisations, NGO’s and Governments. We facilitate donor funding to fund e’Pap for projects that do not have the infrastructure to apply for donor funding. We challenge traditional approaches that use ineffective nutritional fortification approaches to move the paradigm to one that focuses on nutrient repleteness. Getting local and international donor organisations “up to speed” on the specialised technologies required to achieve nutrient repleteness is a high priority. We encourage donors to fund effective nutrition, NOT “stomach filling”. Setting up ethical and sustainable distribution networks focused on community structures is an important activity. Over the past 11 years we have sold over 100 million food portions of e’Pap to communities across our continent. Our current strategy is to encourage corporate social investment (CSI) budgets to adopt projects requiring e’Pap, on a sustainable basis. We work hard to develop strategic relationships with International NGO’s that are better positioned to access funding for accurate nutritional interventions that result in nutrient repleteness.
About You
Econocom Foods
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Econocom Foods

Organization Phone


Organization Address

29 8th Avenue Melville.2092. Johannesburg

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.

We operate across the African continent in 15 countries through “word of mouth” marketing. Projects where e’Pap is used go across a spectrum from highly malnourished or sick communities with little access to resources to general feeding to maintain well being.

We manufacture in a highly regulated environment that is inflexible to new ideas. Regulator controls and specifications are not designed to support innovation and new technologies. The silo paradigms that refuse new understandings are built to protect vested interests or levels of ignorance that hire support from “trusted advisors”.

This difficult environment is compounded by dysfunctional and ineffective government structures and procedures where corruption, ignorance and misinformation are exploited.

Populations have moved from rural farming areas to urban slums where the food source is largely processed foods. Nutritional deficiencies (hidden hunger) have resulted in enormous health challenges for which current, traditional approaches to health care are not equipped. Both the medical and nutritional professions have “lost the plot”. Well-resourced vested lobbies or levels of ignorance on the latest scientific understanding on nutritional science result in confusion and misinformation.

Our experiences with regulatory structures and international decision makers in large donor organisations that are mainly controlled by medical mindsets have been “difficult”. One day they will become the subject of a book and movie that we are sure will become an International Best Seller.

e’Pap has set the stage for a new approach to nutritional interventions. Many ineffective “copy cat” approaches that use ineffective mainstream approaches to fortification become part of the problem. They “muddy the waters” and bring into disrepute the nutritional advances that we need to make.

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

A lifelong focus has been to repair the dysfunction in our world. e’Pap Technologies resulted from a volunteer project in which my wife Rose was involved. Jenny Marcus started a project called CARE (Community Aids Response) to support people with HIV at Johannesburg Hospital. The HIV pandemic was just hitting South Africa in 1999. ARV Drugs were not freely available. The only advice for patients was to “go home and eat a healthy well balanced diet”. It was advice that no poor South African could afford. CARE received a donation from the Elton John Foundation to offer counseling, training and food parcels. My involvement was to bring some science to the food parcel.

Our formulation approach was to create an affordable single food portion that would deliver many of the important nutrients contained in “a healthy well balanced diet”. As a social responsibility project we had access to the leading brains internationally in food fortification. As a result, we were up to speed overnight in areas of nutrient interactions and bio-availability.

The “miracle stories” that resulted from the unmarked, pre-cooked fortified food that we distributed in the food parcels and the request from patients to purchase it, resulted in us setting up Econocom Foods. As social entrepreneurs, we decided to distribute the product via a “job creation” and community distribution network as a way to empower those living with HIV. The business model we created allowed us to make cash and product donations to those at the forefront of fighting the pandemic.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

We started distributing e’Pap in 1999. Through ‘word of mouth’ marketing, the product has sold 100 million food portions into over 15 countries across Africa. The impact on malnourished people who face enormous health challenges is so dramatic that the community’s word of mouth “bush fire” is our main measure of success. Many original customers still remain.

e’Pap is used in many market applications from personal health to early childhood development, sport, corporate wellness programs, faith based community outreach programs, school feeding, senior citizen programs, disaster feeding and HIV/AIDS and TB. Each application has different measures of success.

-sport is measured by increased goals and winning matches
-corporate measures are reduced absenteeism and improved productivity.
-early childhood development measures child wellbeing, weight gain and thriving
-school feeding measures learners marks, absenteeism and wellness
-In HIV/AIDS - people get up off their deathbeds and go back to work. Less orphans. (see photographs in media)
-TB programs are measured as HIV. In addition, improved cure rates; reduced re-infection rates coupled with improved compliance resulting from reduced nausea reported after eating e’Pap.
-In the Wits Medical School Clinical trial it was reduced malnourishment signs on skin, hair, nails and eyes, improved reported wellness, increased handgrip strength and blood serum level improvements of iron, selenium, vitamin A etc.

A key measure of success will be when tender specifications define bioavailability and nutrient form. This will happen when decision makers understand that nutrient repleteness relies on nutrients absorbed biologically, not the quantity of nutrients added to food.
We will know we have shifted the paradigm when I buy an affordable tomato that specifies its nutrient content.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

With Ashoka to access corporate CSI and International NGO’s to fill our factory to a capacity of 200 tons/month.

Task 1

Upgrade our quality assurance program to international standards. We are presently implementing a HACCP quality control program. (We achieved 91% - SAFSIS Food Safety certificate)

Task 2

Comply with the new South African Food Labeling laws. This includes a full analytical analysis of e’Pap.

Task 3

Utilize Ashoka’s international relationships to get stakeholders to better understand the technologies behind e’Pap so that they use e’Pap in their programs.

Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Run the current factory at present capacity of 200 tons/month output of e’Pap and investigate further plant requirements in Africa.

Task 1

Secure strategic relationships with large corporates CSI programs and international NGOs to ensure we can develop future business across Africa.

Task 2

Ensure the Clinical Investigation pilot study completed by Wits Medical School is published to enhance the credibility of the e’Pap products.

Task 3

Ensure e’Pap remains the market leader from a technological perspective by consistent research and incorporating new nutritional findings.

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Our task is to articulate the challenge, produce the products, distribute on the ground and show that it is cost effective and sensible for all stakeholders. We will extend our network as we advocate for nutrient repleteness as a key planetary strategy.

Decision makers and policy makers will start to understand that to address the many challenges facing most countries on the planet, a nutrient replete population must become a fundamental priority. By focusing on an objective of nutrient repleteness, policy makers can revisit the food chain from agricultural techniques to food processing, food safety, food fortification approaches, and new approaches to health policy, primary health management programs and sustainable development.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Our biggest challenges are current mainstream approaches to nutrition and fortification that specifies refined isolate nutrients. When organisations see the impact e’Pap makes, decision makers buy into the concept of using a fortified food to address malnutrition. The reality is that many customers then use cheaper alternatives “copy cats” because of “ignorance” or commercial relationships that have nothing to do with achieving nutrient repleteness.

Bureaucrats who create specifications attempt to formulate products without understanding what is required to achieve nutrient repleteness. As a result, specifications are created that make no sense in relation to new technologies and are designed to be ineffective or serve other interests.

Ignorant medical decision makers compound the problem. They rely on professional academic nutritionists whose own understanding of micronutrients and bioavailability is limited. For reasons we do not comprehend, “common practice” is not subjected to the rigors of clinical evidence that is demanded of a new approach that shows positive impact - even when “common practice” is shown to be ineffective.

The lack of understanding is endemic even at an International level where the “experts” creating the problem are the role models on which local programs are copied. A dynamic of the “blind leading the blind”.
To address these challenges we focus on current scientific literature and document our own clinical and anecdotal evidence. Using such information we lobby donors to use e’Pap in their programs so that actual consumers become the decision makers of “what works”. Because “common practice” ignores even the scientific evidence they demand, we focus on a strategy that concludes - the bigger our fingerprint of positive anecdotal feedback, eventually “common practice” will have to engage a new paradigm.

Tell us about your partnerships

As this social entrepreneur business was created without access to large scale funding, we created an effective network of partnerships to outsource many business processes in order to keep fixed costs low. This network of outsourced entrepreneurs stretches across many regions of the continent.

The initial relationship with CARE gave us access to state of the art international technology and understandings. e’Pap formulation approaches on nutrient interactions and bioavailability benefited from this. As a result we were able to contribute cash and product at cost to CARE until 2005.

We have established relationships with many NGOs and community projects and are able to deliver into rural and urban areas as a result.
We connect donors with remote projects to ensure their access to e’Pap.
We create relationships with faith-based organisations. They see the enormous impact of e’Pap in their community work and disaster relief. (Catholic Church – SA, Namibia; Lutheran Church - Mozambique, Gift of the givers – Darfur; ADRA – Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Somalia; Many local churches etc)

Our relationship with international NGO HETN (Health Empowerment Through Nutrition) facilitated the implementation of large-scale programs for early childhood development and TB patient support. It resulted in an important relationship developing with the Wits Medical School that conducted a clinical evaluation with exciting outcomes.
We co-operate with a rural development project under Sheryl Ogilvy - university of Technology, Tshwane Pretoria (Ndumo Northern KZN).
We have corporate partners who use CSI budgets to support programs. Eg. We have negotiated to use spare capacity of a logistics company to distribute e’Pap free of charge so that NGOs can extend their budgets. Eg. A relationship with AndBeyond Safaris sees e’Pap going to staff and communities around lodges up Africa.

Explain your selections

The initial working capital that created e’Pap came from our family resources. As we have grown, our working capital and funds invested have come in the main from margins generated through selling our product. These internally generated funds from sales have allowed us to build production facilities and upgrade our product and develop new markets. The profits generated have been used to support outreach programs in both cash and product. The customer base (Businesses, individuals, Foundations, NGO’s etc) has purchased e’Pap based on the word of mouth impact and outcomes they have experienced.

As funds have been generated from sales we have been able to invest in research, marketing promotions and the upgrading of our products. We are presently spending capital in upgrading factory quality control procedures to bring them in line with International HACCP standards.
Building our business model through internal self-generated resources has in many ways slowed the growth. This imperative has made the development of our business more secure as we have been able to take fewer risks that have resulted in us learning important lessons on a smaller scale. It has also forced us to find unconventional routes to market and distribute and created some interesting innovations that span our total business process.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We plan to strengthen our project over the next 3 years to ensure that nutrient repleteness becomes a household concept and a known measure in the food chain.

Our primary focus is to fill our plant so that we can make secure business decisions on partners, research, production processes and investment in plant.

Through clinical evaluations we want to prove to mainstream decision makers the clinical efficacy of e’Pap. This will allow us to negotiate with mainstream international agencies to specify e’Pap products for use in their programs worldwide. It will also support our marketing program to ensure e’Pap is specified for the many programs from early childhood development to emergency relief and medical programs such as HIV, TB and malaria etc.

We also plan to upgrade our products through new packaging processes that we will dramatically increase the use-by date of the product. This will enable organisations like the International Red Cross to stock pile product required for emergency relief.

With access to research funding we will be able to make better decisions on formulation upgrades and more targeted product development that will being focus to specific applications and different staple diets in the world.

With the help of Ashoka we will develop a global marketing business plan that will allow e’Pap Technologies to be spread across the globe. This program will be supported by clinical evidence, outcome based research and a sound legal support framework.

Which barriers to health and well-being does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Other (Specify Below)


Lack of affordable care


Lack of physical access to care/lack of facilities

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Ignorance about bioavailable nutrition amongst medical professionals and policy makers, makes the barrier to change high.

Our strategy is to publicize the dramatic impact of e’Pap when used in health applications, so that medical doctors and policy makers recognize the importance of effective nutrition.

A nutrient replete person is enabled to:
-be drug compliant and co-operate with prescribed medical regimens.
-Compliance prevents MDR and XDR transmutations – which are costly.
-Unmask latent conditions that hide in a malnourished body
-Fend off opportunistic diseases

As we raise the agenda on nutrient repleteness, we will show how bioavailable nutrition supports allopathic treatment and reduces expense on health care budgets.

How are you growing the impact of your organization or initiative?
Please select up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Grown geographic reach: Multi-country


Leveraged technology


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Our strategy is to publicize the dramatic impact of e’Pap when used in health applications, so that medical doctors and policy makers recognize the importance of effective nutrition.

A nutrient replete person is enabled to be drug compliant and co-operate with prescribed medical regimens to, to unmask latent conditions that hide in a malnourished body; fend off opportunistic diseases.

e’Pap provides an easy to use, cost effective, contribution where there is little medical support. Whilst mass drug roll outs are expensive, e’Pap is an immediate affordable option to support the drugs.
As we raise the agenda on nutrient repleteness, we will show how bioavailable nutrition supports allopathic treatment and reduces expense on health care budgets.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

The malnourished and poor patients have given us real live feedback that has confirmed our scientific approach. They show us that nutrient replete people contribute positively to life.
Our technology suppliers share clinical evidence with us that helps us better understand the scientific issues and which assist us in our design and implementation.
The NGO’s and corporates who have purchased e’Pap have allowed us to fund the development and production process that have allowed us to tailor make e’Pap and distribute it as an African solution.
Finally, the clinical research carried out by WITS University Public Health Department has raised e’Pap’s credibility so that large NGO’s will use e’Pap in their programs.