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Make an opportunity, solve a problem, part I

Mondays just fail to register for me when I don’t hear the stopwatch on Sunday evenings. I saw this segment on Plumpynut for the second time on 60 Minutes. I’m glad this topic has come around again, and felt just as dumbfounded as to why this is such a difficult problem to solve this time as I did the first time.

Quick Background

  • Journalist-designed-to-attract-women-in-their-30s visits third world (complete with Prada-T) and interviews the Nobel Prize-winning relief group “Doctors Without Borders.”
  • Every year, malnutrition kills five million children – that’s one child every six seconds.
  • Dr. Milton Tectonidis, the chief nutritionist for Doctors Without Borders says Plumpynut is cheap, easy to make, and even easier to use.
  • Plumpynut is a ready-to-eat, vitamin-enriched paste that has the capacity to serve like an essential medicine; in three weeks, a child that looked half dead can be cured.

The Problem

Mothers in these villages can’t produce enough milk themselves and can’t afford to buy it. Even if they could, they can’t store it — there’s no electricity, so no refrigeration. Powdered milk is useless because most villagers don’t have clean water.

The Solution

Plumpynut is simple: it is made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter paste. It is very sweet, and because of that kids cannot get enough of it. The formula was developed by a nutritionist. It doesn’t need refrigeration, water, or cooking; mothers simply squeeze out the paste. Many children can even feed themselves. Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.

My Question

Given the simplicity of this product, why haven’t companies like Kraft, Nestle or Procter & Gamble…with their decades of knowledge in product management, manufacturing and global distribution not done something about this?

It’s those organizations that can secure a government contract, produce this kind of product at a low cost and distribute it. There is a market, it’s cheap, and the product will make money!!! What’s the deal?

About the Author: Christine Haskell

Christine is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with several years experience in the .com industry. She recently started social venture labs, an idea incubator for those leading small mission-driven businesses or organizations looking to create relationships, share ideas and [...]