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January 13, 2010
Andean Naturals Inc. aims to be the quinoa king. And that’s no pipe dream—the company, one of New Resource’s first customers, rocketed from $635,000 in revenues in 2007 to more than $8 million and a 33 percent U.S. market share in 2009, says CEO Sergio Nuñez de Arco.
Driven by a vision of promoting sustainable agriculture and raising farmer incomes in the founders’ native Bolivia, Andean Naturals hopes to capture the majority of the U.S. market for quinoa by 2012 with a product that’s 100 percent organic and moving toward 100 percent fair trade.
New Resource relationship is essential to success
The relationship with New Resource is essential to the company’s success, Nuñez de Arco says. Not only does the company draw on a line of credit, it needs frequent, complex wire transfers to go through flawlessly. “We were waiting for New Resource to open because as a sustainable enterprise we make every effort to walk the talk and wanted to support an organization that shares our values,” he says, “but I’m blown away by their service.”
What surprised him somewhat, he adds, is that the bank “did not take it easy on us just because we’re trying to do good. They had a very solid way of analyzing the financials, cost structure and profitability, and telling us, ‘If you want to get to this level, here’s what you have to do.’ I feel like they want our company to be successful.”
Andean Naturals bridges farms to markets
Quinoa, a complete-protein, gluten-free “grain” (it’s really a seed), has been cultivated in the Andes for thousands of years. Andean Naturals is making it more accessible in the United States by reducing risk for U.S. food purveyors. The company, which has offices in Foster City, California, and La Paz, Bolivia, buys directly from local farm cooperatives and processors, paying them an 8 percent premium for meeting its Royal Quinoa cultivation guidelines. It then sells the crop to Trader Joe’s and other retailers and manufacturers.
“We see ourselves as a bridge between the farm and the U.S. market,” says Nuñez de Arco. “There are risks in importing directly—language barriers, shipments that are not well cleaned, late shipments. With us, customers don’t have to worry about when the container will get there, and we stand by the quality. We’re also transparent about prices, including how much the farmer gets. All this makes it easier for U.S. food companies to incorporate quinoa into their products.”