USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Guatemala Host Adapts Business Model and Perseveres
Like others throughout the world, many farmers and agribusinesses are beginning to suffer substantial economic losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them, however, are leveraging knowledge and skills gained through the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) and are now better-positioned to weather this ongoing storm. Yogi Super Foods (YSF), a Guatemalan agribusiness that has worked with Partners of the Americas’ F2F volunteers since 2017, is one example.
In 2017, Marco Barbi, founder and CEO of YSF, was at a crossroads. His nascent business was struggling to turn a profit and his dream of running a small agribusiness in the heart of Antigua, Guatemala, was beginning to fade.
After hearing about the F2F Program, Marco reached out to the Partners of the Americas’ F2F Guatemala office and worked with them to create an operational plan. YSF’s first F2F volunteer, Eric Fox, arrived in October 2017 to conduct an organizational assessment and provide recommendations to streamline processes. While YSF implemented these recommendations, F2F volunteer Howard Fenton also helped Marco develop a new recordkeeping system. Volunteers Robert Giblin and Bill Nichols assisted in creating a new business plan and marketing strategy, respectively. Volunteer input led YSF to consolidate and refine their product line, eventually gaining access to new retail outlets throughout Guatemala. Marketing their products at over 80 different locations across the country, including Walmart, La Torre and Paiz grocery, YSF’s sales increased by 10% in 2018 and an additional 15% in 2019.
Although YSF was turning a profit, Marco’s goal was to grow his business to create more jobs and purchase more raw materials from smallholder Guatemalan farmers. He doubled down on his new business plan and marketing strategy, setting his sights on the niche Central and North American superfood markets.
Marco procured new production equipment and this time requested F2F assistance to help YSF meet export requirements and comply with foreign certification bodies. F2F volunteer Dr. Aliyar Fouladkhah trained YSF’s team in food safety and USDA organic certification, while volunteer Christine Blackledge provided guidance on FDA packaging and labeling requirements. Through these assignments, YSF was able to satisfy export quality standards. 2019 F2F Volunteer of the Year, Melissa Delzio, worked with YSF rebrand their logo, packaging designs, message templates, and craft bags. They now have 14 new label designs, 11 of which are FDA compliant for export to US markets.
Dr. Aliyar Fouladkhah inspecting facilities and giving recommendations to comply with to FSMA requirements
Old package and label design
New package and label design
Although sales were increasing and YSF was capturing new market share, Marco recognized time was of the essence to capture a share of the online superfood market. F2F volunteers Kathleen Lestina and Rebecca Roebber worked with YSF to develop new e-commerce strategies and assist with creative and social media development. Online sales increased by 15% and YSF launched a product line on Amazon.com in March 2020. While their 2020 sales will undoubtedly be adversely impacted by COVID-19, Marco’s vision, combined with targeted F2F volunteer assistance, has positioned them to withstand the pandemic and thrive again once the crisis abates.
F2F Volunteers Kathleen Lestina and Rebecca Roebber working on e-commerce and outreach strategies
YSF’s listing on Amazon
About Yogi Super Foods
YSF currently markets 40 superfood products that are packed with key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to increase energy levels, boost immune response and resistance, and improve general well-being. In addition to offering healthy and nutritious products, YSF takes action to protect the environment and improve the lives of Guatemalans.
YSF recently redesigned their production lines and packaging to reduce plastic waste and their carbon footprint. Furthermore, they strive to provide high-paying employment opportunities and source the majority of their ingredients from local smallholder farmers. One percent of YSF proceeds are donated to combat malnutrition in Guatemala.
Yogi Superfoods Website: https://yogisuperfoods.com/