Samoa’s cocoa company wins Australian Innovators Award

Nora’s Plantation Foods Limited of Samoa is a winner of a Frontiers Innovators Award from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) InnovationXchange. The award is given to innovative businesses who are making an impact in the Pacific in alignment with DFAT’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Nora’s Plantation Foods was recognised for its innovative approach in manufacturing cocoa products and cubes and its effect on the wider community. The company is owned by Mona Lisa Karene and husband John Seedhouse.

The winner’s prize package includes grant funding up to A$100,000, expert support, advice and access to potential partners and investors.

Nora’s Plantation Foods is one of four Pacific Island companies selected from 700 applicants in the top 15 to win the international award. The other successful Pacific businesses include a digital tracking company from Samoa, a coconut oil company from Tonga and a feminine hygiene product company from Vanuatu. They were amongst companies from countries such as Indonesia, Netherlands, Cambodia, Nepal, Philippines and Myanmar.

Lisa Karene

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced the winners on April 20 and the prize was awarded on May 3 by the Australian High Commissioner in Samoa, Sara Moriarty.

Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand has worked with Nora’s Plantation Foods at Fine Foods New Zealand and the Auckland Food Show. PTI Trade Development Manager Joe Fuavao was thrilled with the company’s success.

“We congratulate Lisa and her team on receiving the Frontier Innovators Award! It is a testament to the dedication and hard work of her team and their commitment to product quality and contributing to Samoa’s economic development,” he said.

Pacific Periscope contacted Mona Lisa Karene, for comment on her company’s success.

“I would like to think that it would help our Samoan Cocoa industry because it is the cocoa beans from Samoan koko farmers that have carried Nora’s brand to break into our export markets. We are keen to see our Samoan growers reach the corners of the world either through Nora’s Plantation Foods or through our other exporters,” Ms Karene said.

“A business must first be contributing to the wellbeing of people in the region regardless of where they are based. They must show that they are benefiting three specific groups in the area; and must address three types of issues. For Nora’s Plantation Foods the three groups that we were helping were:  Farmers/growers to give them a bigger local market, the employees by offering jobs in our value-add processing and lastly, using local suppliers as much as possible so that they can continue to employ their workers in the Samoan community. The three issues Nora’s targeted were poverty, unemployment and crime where the last two seem to stem from the main issue that we are targeting, which is poverty.”

Ms Karene said, “Winning the Frontier Innovators Award means that Nora’s can kick start its first stage of scaling their operation to a much larger level to impact more farmers, employees and the local community. They plan to build existing markets in Australia and Japan — markets they are already familiar with.

“Each country is different — for example it is a mistake to think that all Asian countries are the same. Our marketing strategy is to target specific countries that are as closely related to what we already know,” Ms Karene said.

Nora’s Plantation Foods packaging is immediately eye catching — standing out with in its brightly coloured orange packaging. The theme is carried through consistently across its website. Its message is clear from the first – they provide a market for local growers by buying fruit and vegetables that are then value added, repackaged and sold.

Their cocoa range includes unique whole cocoa nibs in 100 and 500 grams as snacks or for cooking, and cocoa paste cubes in a pack of 96grams and 480gram cartons for that luxury chocolate ganache or boutique hot chocolate. There is a team of 10 staff working for them in Samoa and with export to Australia, Japan and Europe and sales at a duty-free outlet in the departure lounge of the Faleolo Airport in Samoa.

The company is keen to continue to maximise the award through their marketing strategy.

“It is early days, but our immediate intention is to prepare for our taro chip market test in Australia and this Award will be an advantage,” Ms Karene said.

The award could also help to further promote Samoa’s gradually growing cocoa industry at a time when the world is seeking good global supplies.

“We’ve had to finalise our pilot programme earlier than planned which is our Koko production in order to get on with our main larger project which is the Taro chip project.”

The taro chip project, now that will be another story.

For more information please contact Joe Fuavao, PTI Trade Development Manager on joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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