Aduna is an award-winning London-based superfood and beauty brand.
The organisation was founded in 2011 by Andrew Hunt and Nick Salter, who sought to create a demand for West Africa's indigenous crops which would, in turn, create opportunities for employment and development across the region.
At present, Aduna is concentrating its efforts on baobab and moringa. Both are known for being nutrient-dense – baobab has six times the vitamin C of oranges, six times the potassium of bananas, and twice as much calcium of milk, while moringa is almost 25% protein, has 24 times the iron content of spinach and contains 21 times as much calcium as milk. From these, Aduna make organic superfood powders and energy bars.
Curious to know more about their initiative, I spoke to Andrew about inspiration, sustainability and empowering women in African communities.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT BAOBAB AND MORINGA?
I first learned about baobab about ten years ago when I was living in The Gambia. My adopted Sengalese mother, Fanta, used to make baobab juice for me, which I blended into my protein shake before going to the gym. I didn't know much about it, but I loved the taste and it's one of those things that you can just tell is good for you. It was only when I was working on a mango project for the World Bank that I started looking into it more and found out about its amazing nutritional profile and health benefits.
Moringa was a later discover by my co-founder, Nick. He is constantly researching Africa's high-potential, undiscovered natural ingredients and we he came across moringa he was blown away by its incredible nutritional profile. We then went on a mission to Ghana to find out more and became completely convinced by both its health benefits and potential to make a social impact.
HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE THEM INTO YOUR DIET?
Both baobab and moringa are very easy to integrate into the diet, simply because they taste delicious – baobab is sweet and citrusy while moringa has an earthy, spinach-like flavour. I always start the day with a baobab smoothie. My favourite recipe is almond milk blended with strawberries, a banana, and a heaped teaspoon of baobab. With moringa, I make it into a paste then mix into a glass of half apple juice, half water. I don't drink coffee, so these two drink help me keep buzzing along nicely.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START ADUNA?
Ten years ago, despite my positive nature and " successful" London career, I became clinically depressed. When I was at my lowest ebb, I got a phone call from a family friend inviting me to volunteer for a farming project in The Gambia. The amazing thing is that just three weeks after arriving, I came back to life. Instead of staying for six weeks, I ended up staying for four years and the project I set up and managed won a UN World Business and Development Award. I had become inspired by Africa and by the intoxicating (and very satisfying) combination of entrepreneurship providing opportunities for sustainable development in rural Africa.
FROM WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR INGREDIENTS?
Aden works directly in partnership with communities in Northern Ghana, empowering the women to wild-harvest and then process our baobab. The Upper East Region, where we work, is one of the driest, remotest and hence poorest regions of West Africa and the additional income during "the hungry season" means they are able to provide the basic needs for their families.
Moringa supply is a bit more complex. Producing "clean", high-quality moringa involves washing the leaves in purified water and having quite sophisticated drying technology that requires quite a bit of investment – making it a challenge for rural communities. Aduna only sources the highest quality ingredients, so we are currently sourcing from a small producer in Egypt and over time we plant to work with a Sub-Saharan African partner to build their capacity to start supplying us.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR PRODUCTION AND PACKAGING PROCESSES ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE?
We are a mission-driven social business so we aim for everything we do to be both ethical and sustainable. Our mission is to create demand for the under-utilised products sourced directly from small producers in Africa, who are generally surviving on less than $1 a day. By creating the markets for these new products, we help ensure sustainable livelihoods for the communities that produce them. We are already working with 2,000 women from eleven communities via our small-holder value-add supply chain, who are benefiting from regular income flows and plan to expand this tenfold over the next ten years. As for packaging, we vet all our suppliers to ensure that they are using ethical materials and processes.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR ADUNA?
Believe it or not, Aduna has a 35-year plan. We intend to scale up our impact with baobab and moringa, introduce new Africa super ingredients and diversify our business into new segments of the market. We want to see baobab established as a billion-dollar industry for rural Africa, and for Aduna to be known as the world's first African-inspired global lifestyle brand and social business.
WHAT HAS RUNNING YOUR OWN COMPANY TAUGHT YOU ABOUT YOURSELF?
My experience in The Gambia taught me that the most important thing for me is to wake up in the morning and want to get out of bed. That means doing something with my life that I am passionate about, which is what Aduna is all about. There have been so many challenges and sacrifices involved in starting my own business, that if i didn't truly feel passionate about it, I would most probably have given up by now!
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD PHILOSOPHY?
When my sister and I were little kids, my mum cooked us amazing, fresh, delicious recipes, so we've both grown up as foodies. It's really only since launching Aduna that I have become more educated about health and nutrition. I always include baobab and moringa into my morning routine but no one food makes us healthy; I think it's better to go for a 'super diet' with a variety of nutrient-dense foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and fish.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAINTAIN YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING?
I try to ensure that I have my superfood dose first thing in the morning in the form of a delicious baobab smoothie. I also think it's important to do some exercise during the week to get the body moving. Football used to be my sport of choice, but since I broke my ankle I mainly work out at the gym and go swimming.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
It makes me happy to see how far Aduna has come and the positive impact it is having. Aduna is the culmination of everything that's ever happened to me in my own life – of every and right turn I have taken, every lesson learned. It is also my way of sharing with the world what Africa gave me – which is nothing less than life itself.
In the past three years, we have taken baobab from complete obscurity to one of the country's best-selling health and beauty products. The demand we have created has enabled us to permanently transform the lives of 2,000 women in Upper East Ghana and their 12,000 dependents. And that's only the beginning! National Geographic estimates that there are 10 million rural households that can provide baobab fruit – and that a global demand for baobab could be worth $1bn to rural Africa every year. Nothing would bring me greater happiness than the knowledge that Aduna has played a part in making that happen.