Moringa company Kuli Kuli expands with foundation work in Haiti

Moringa is showing so much promise as the next superfood that specialty company Kuli Kuli has not only exploded onto the market in just its first two years of existence, but it's already found a partner in Whole Foods to help expand its product line as well as its positive impact, with eyes set on Haiti.

Founder and CEO Lisa Curtis said the company did about $200,000 in sales last year, with an expected jump to half a million this year. Until just a few months ago, Kuli Kuli was a bar-only company, but in July it introduced moringa powder, which Curtis said was an immediate hit. By January, it will be in 700 stores, including all Sprouts and Whole Foods locations nationwide. (With a few exceptions, the company is mainly in the natural channel but will be doing a Costco “roadshow” with the bars and powder in January.)

Curtis thinks the powder helped to boost the company's expansion, because as she learned once she came out with an energy bar, bars are a pretty saturated market. Kuli Kuli's bars, which come in black cherry, crunchy almond and dark chocolate flavors, did well nonetheless, but in the powder, retailers saw real potential for a standout product. According to Curtis, its competitors are other protein and superfood powders, like Amazing Grass.

A nutritional powerhouse, moringa is a rich source of protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Kuli Kuli has been doing well on the business end, but it's also trying to make waves in the communities from which it sources its moringa. It pays 30 percent above market price to the women in Ghana who supply the moringa, to help support a healthy environment by providing incentive to grow trees, as well as economic development. "I'm a big believer in sustainable development through hand-ups, not handouts," Curtis said. And things have been going so well, the Clinton Foundation and a nonprofit in Haiti—where heavy deforestation puts the country at great risk for climate disaster—approached Curtis about bringing moringa trees to Haiti.  

So Kuli Kuli took the idea to Whole Foods, which agreed to co-develop a product (that will be a Whole Foods exclusive for the first six months) to help expand into Haiti. With input from Whole Foods on the types of products that would likely be popular with consumers, they came up with the idea of an energy shot. "There are so many bars out there, and so few shots," she said. “If you took a wheatgrass and five-hour energy shot and had a tasty baby, that’d be the moringa energy shots.”

The company launched a fundraising campaign in September to fund the first production run of those shots, which will come in three flavors. The goal is to raise $100,000 and it's getting close; so far its raised more than $77,000 with just over two weeks to go.

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