Su­per­foods with Soul

How Natierra founder Thierry Ol­livier went be­yond Fair Trade to cre­ate a unique mar­riage of busi­ness and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity

Better Nutrition - - TRENDWATCH - By Neil Zevnik

You’re prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with Hi­malayan pink salt. And you’ve un­doubt­edly sam­pled goji berries, one of the most pop­u­lar “su­per­foods” at nat­u­ral foods stores. But you prob­a­bly didn’t know that it was Thierry Ol­livier who fi rst in­tro­duced those products to the Amer­i­can mar­ket.

A na­tive Parisian who adopted the U. S. as his home in the 1990s, Ol­livier has spent years trav­el­ing the globe to seek out new and in­trigu­ing foods— al­ways with an eye to sus­tain­abil­ity and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. Re­cent rain­for­est ex­cur­sions led to the dis­cov­ery of ya­con, a tuber­ous root used for sweet­en­ing that the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health say “may be eff ec­tively used as a di­etary sup­ple­ment to pre­vent and treat chronic dis­eases,” and sacha inchi, a nut- like seed that’s packed with pro­tein, all eight amino acids, and a healthy dose of plant- based omega- 3s.

At ev­ery stop along the way, Ol­livier has re­mained de­ter­mined to give back to the com­mu­ni­ties that pro­duce these unique foods. So­cial im­pact con­tin­ues to be a pri­mary goal for his com­pany, Natierra. “We par­tic­i­pate in 1% for the Planet ini­tia­tives, in af­ter- school projects in Ar­gentina; we spon­sor fam­i­lies in Peru so they can re­ceive free health­care, and we buy Fair Trade where pos­si­ble,” he says. “We say it in our tagline, ‘ Su­per­foods with Soul.’”

But it was his quest to en­able a sus­tain­able dried- fruit in­dus­try in Haiti, specifi cally to pre­vent lo­cal man­goes from go­ing to waste, that led Ol­livier down the path to his pas­sion. His team adopted a state- of- the- art freeze- dry­ing process that main­tains the nutri­ent den­sity and at­trac­tive shape of the fruit, and then em­ployed lo­cal work­ers to har­vest and pre­pare it. But that was just the be­gin­ning.

The Pas­sion

Dur­ing one of his trips to Haiti, Ol­livier was con­fronted with a shock­ing and bru­tal re­al­ity: women and chil­dren were mak­ing and eat­ing “cook­ies” out of mud to trick their stom­achs into feel­ing full. Sud­denly, sourc­ing eth­i­cal products and cre­at­ing jobs was sim­ply not enough. “I freaked out,” he says, “I told my team ‘ We can and must do bet­ter than dirt.’”

And thus was born Ol­livier’s “Feed A Soul” and “Buy One Bag, Feed One Child” ini­tia­tives. Part­ner­ing with the non- profi t Con­voy of Hope, Natierra pro­vides a nour­ish­ing meal for a Haitian child for ev­ery bag of prod­uct sold. The meals are off ered in schools, thereby en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion and job prepa­ra­tion while fi ght­ing hunger and poverty. The goal is to pro­vide one mil­lion meals by the end of 2018.

And it’s not only the Haitian chil­dren and their par­ents who benefi t, as Ol­livier is quick to point out. “It’s changed my life and the lives of my en­tire team. It’s not about selling our products any­more; it’s how many kids we’re feed­ing. I keep those mud cook­ies in my offi ce to re­mind me that busi­nesses can do much big­ger things than profi t and dol­lars, can have a higher pur­pose than just mak­ing money. This is how busi­ness can change the world for the bet­ter.” That sure works for me. Eat healthy foods and feed a hun­gry child— and change the world one small act at a time.

“Busi­nesses can do much big­ger things than profit and dol­lars, can have a higher pur­pose than just mak­ing money,” says Natierra founder Thierry Ol­livier.

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