In September 2009, the Food Development Company Ltd (FDC) was registered in the UK with the aim of creating a portfolio of micro food enterprises, applying commercial market based strategies to achieve sustainable social, ethical and environmental objectives as well as a viable and profitable business. The Transylvania Food Company Srl (TFC) was registered as the first operational enterprise in February 2010.
In 2010 TFC signed a partnership agreement with a UK food & drinks manufacturer to supply one tanker (19,000litre) of raw elder flower juice. This involved about 1,000 of the poorest local people (approximately 50% women and children) collecting wild flowers – probably their only source of income in the year. We now have a five year rolling supply contract to produce at least eight tankers (152,000litre) per year. New product development in 2011 has included a raw acacia flower juice which will be trialled as a carbonated ready to drink pressé on the UK market in early 2012. Other juices from local fruits are also being produced creating income for local people to grow or collect from the wild from May to November.
TFC also produce jams, pickles and savoury sauces and bottle honey. From late January 2012 our apricot jam and wildflower meadow honey will be available on the Fortnum & Mason and Highgrove on-line shops under the Highgrove label.
We have developed a mature cheese that adds value to local milk. In July 2011 our cheese became registered as a traditional product. There is strong demand in Romania for this product.
Plot 354, Saschiz was purchased in 2010, providing an asset that is being developed to create the process capacity required for the juices. The 2,000 m2 plot comprises an existing barn which has been converted to a store for sugar, other ingredients and equipment. Construction work on a new 330m2 juice facility will be completed by the end of 2011. The next phase of development will be to renovate one house for the general manager, a second house which will be converted to offices including a small shop and to build a small cheese facility which will create year round employment and by adding value to local milk, help maintain a working landscape and protect biodiversity.
- Employment – so far four permanent staff and six temporary on part time contracts
- Direct beneficiaries – approximately 1,000 people collecting flowers and wild fruits
- Indirect beneficiaries – 2,000 other family members
- Sub-contractors – building companies and suppliers of construction materials, packaging etc
- Local producers – promoted route to local and international markets and provided role model for enterprise growth, development and business management capacity
- Community – increase in money circulating in local shops Other – increase in trade for local hotels, more tourism etc.
- Sustainable wild harvesting based on environmental impact assessment
- Local population learn of the value of conservation of their landscape and biodiversity
- By products from processing used for compost returning nutrients and conserving soil moisture
Social & Ethical Impact
- Training, fair wages, legal employment, staff with contracts
- Increased local capacity for compliance with health and safety, food legislation, business environment etc leading to greater long term sustainability and impact on poverty reduction
- Profit sharing scheme for staff and understanding that long term employment depends on success.
- Treating the poorest and marginalised members of the community with respect
Empowerment of community leaders through the creation of collection points for wild harvested produce
We have put into practice what a small group of us have been writing about for decades as international development consultants. We have so far raised £360,000 from twelve investors in a combination of debt and equity and are now seeking to raise a further £150,000 to complete the construction work, to purchase further process equipment and vehicles and to recruit more staff. We are looking for like minded individuals to invest £5,000 to £50,000 although groups wishing to invest the full amount will be welcome.