In our Supplier Stories series, we’re featuring our wonderful suppliers! So many of them have special stories, from women entrepreneurs to family farms to mission-driven folks who want to make a difference. Some are local — only available in a couple of stores or states — while others are growing along with us. Follow as we share their tales.
Ask many vegetarians, and they’ll tell you that traveling internationally outside of major cities can make eating a nutritious and varied diet challenging. Lisa Curtis, founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli, became aware of that reality while serving in the Peace Corps and living off a diet of rice and millet in a rural village in Niger, West Africa.
A Growing Need for Nutrition and Income in Africa and Beyond
“I began to feel malnourished. A few of the Nigerien women I was working with told me about an iron-rich plant called moringa. They pulled a few moringa leaves off a tree, mixed it into a popular West African peanut snack called kuli-kuli and handed it to me.”
The moringa is a tree native to the southern Himalayas and is grown in places like India, Indonesia, Thailand and Africa as a food source. It adds a kick of iron and calcium to dishes like drinks and snacks.
Curtis felt more energized after a week of enjoying the snack and eventually began working with village women to grow more moringa in hopes of improving local nutrition and creating an income stream for the women. She knew that making moringa more widely available could have notable implications for not only the women of the village, but for people’s diets worldwide.
Back in the U.S., Curtis and co-founders launched Kuli Kuli through a successful crowdfunding campaign. Its mission is to improve nutrition and livelihoods worldwide through moringa.
A Journey from West Africa to U.S. Grocery Shelves
“I thought moringa would help Americans consume more greens while supporting the women I had grown to love in West Africa,” said Curtis. She believed moringa had big potential.
Curtis met with a Whole Foods Market forager and buyer in the Northern California region who saw potential in her homemade moringa superfood bars. Kuli Kuli started with one treat being sold in one Whole Foods Market store in Oakland and grew to more stores across the U.S.
Today, Kuli Kuli Moringa Superfood Bars, Vegetable Powders, Herbal Teas and Green Energy Shots are available at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide along with the company’s newest products — Superfood Smoothie Mixes.
“I am proud we have planted over 1 million moringa trees, provided $1.5 million in income to smallholder farmers and supported over 1,000 women farmers around the world,” said Curtis. Through its supply chain, Kuli Kuli is providing fair, sustainable wages to farmers and women-led cooperatives around the world.
Kuli Kuli’s global good deeds don’t stop there. As a Microloan a Month donor partner with the Whole Planet Foundation, the company is committed to funding an average international microloan (around $183) to support a microentrepreneur living in poverty every month for the year. To date, they have contributed $3,000 to fund 16 microloans creating 87 opportunities for microentrepreneurs to flourish.
Find Kuli Kuli products at your local Whole Foods Market store, and try them in unique recipes for moringa lattes, smoothies, breakfast bars and more.