Six months after successfully raising more than $50,000 through one of the highest-grossing crowdfunding food campaigns of all-time, Oakland, Calif., startup Kuli Kuli has launched its first line of moringa superfood bars at 10 Whole Foods locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Kuli Kuli Bars are gluten-free, vegan and made with just a few simple all-natural ingredients, the company says. The bars are low in calories but contain high amounts of fiber, protein and vitamins. The primary ingredient? Moringa.
Moringa oleifera, the most widely cultivated species of moringa, is a multipurpose tree native to the Himalayan foothills in northwestern India. The somewhat tattered-looking tree grows fast, is resistant to drought and almost all of its parts are edible, tasty and highly nutritious — everything from its leaves and pods to its seeds, flowers, roots and bark offers a complement of protein, calcium, minerals, iron and several important vitamins.
Moringa grows in subtropical areas where malnutrition is most prevalent — such as West Africa. Despite moringa’s abundance, many people living in these areas are unaware of the plant’s potential.
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Kuli Kuli claims to be the first to retail moringa food products in the U.S., sourcing it from women’s cooperatives in West Africa in an effort to help those communities move away from dependency on food aid and towards nutritional self-sufficiency.
“As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, I saw first-hand the impact that moringa can have on improving nutrition," said Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli’s founder and CEO. "I came up with the idea to support women’s cooperatives to grow more moringa to nourish their communities and earn a livelihood by selling a portion of their harvests in the United States in the form of delicious Kuli Kuli Bars.”
The company says it hopes to help make moringa mainstream, spreading awareness of its potential as a nutrient-rich superfood in the United States and serve as a catalyst to improve nutrition and livelihoods worldwide. Introducing the bars through Whole Foods is a great place to start towards achieving this goal.
Studies have documented the successful use of moringa for nutritional interventions in Malawi, Senegal, and India, noting its ability to be harvested year-round and its high nutritional value relative to other local foods. As climate change makes rainfall increasingly unpredictable for low-income farmers in the developing world, moringa will become an important tool to help communities around the world take control of their own nutrition.
A number of innovative social enterprises are working to improve nutrition in developing areas through their nutrient-rich food products:
- The Laddoo Project is aiming to combat malnutrition in India by reimagining a traditional Indian dessert into a high-nutrient food that could help children achieve better nutrition without having to change their diets. The project works with hospitals and daycare providers to reach families and children, providing the nutritious snack and teaching them about healthy eating. After six months of eating a “Laddoo” every day, over 50 percent of the malnourished children moved into the WHO’s height- and weight-based nutritional ‘safe zone.’
- Yumbutter is helping to feed malnourished children in the developing world through its BuyOne:FeedOne initiative: For every jar of its peanut, almond or chocolate butter sold, the company purchases a RUTF (ready-to-use therapeutic food — a specially formulated packet/sachet made from peanut butter fortified with protein and other vitamins and minerals) that is then distributed through its non-profit partners in areas of need; Yumbutter says it is also working on more comprehensive plans to treat malnutrition, including educational classes for mothers, seeds & gardens, and microloans.
- Winners of the 2013 Hult Prize, the Aspire Group's mission is to help tackle food security issues in developing nations — particularly Mexico, Thailand, Kenya and Ghana — through the development and distribution of affordable and sustainable cricket-farming technologies. The Group hopes to create income stability and lower the price of these highly nutritious edible insects around the world — crickets are particularly low in fats and carbohydrates, contain all of the essential amino acids, and are high in micronutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin B; overall, they are a 20-times more efficient source of protein than beef.