Franchised manufacturing: For social enterprises, an idea worth copying

Franchised manufacturing: For social enterprises, an idea worth copying

A child eats Plumpy'nut in Ethiopia. Photo: Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps.
A child eats Plumpy'nut in Ethiopia. Photo: Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps.

How do you get poverty-fighting products to the furthest corners of the globe the way that Coca-Cola gets its products there? Use the same strategy, obviously.

An article last week in GOOD provides the perfect example of how a company that helps fight hunger is adapting a proven business model—the corporate franchise—to reach its customers most in need of their product.

In the early 2000s, a French company called Nutriset developed a product called Plumpy’nut that helps children recover from acute malnutrition. It was cheap, vitamin-fortified and required no water or refrigeration. Plumpy’nut had the potential to help millions of malnourished people but in order to do so, Nutriset needed to get its product in the hands of those malnourished people.

“Nutriset was looking to expand production from their French plant to countries like Mauritania and Niger. The company's general manager, Adeline Lescanne, says the market (the number of kids with acute malnutrition) wasn’t big enough to justify a local factory, but shipping is costly. Lescanne and the rest of her family, who own Nutriset, wanted an alternative. “We reviewed our model and got to something close to a franchise,” she says. “The idea was to transfer the same technology and get the same final product to a different part of the world where there was a need.”

By employing a business strategy that has proven wildly successful for companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks, Nutriset is ensuring intellectual property laws don't prevent hungry children from receiving the care they need. With a growing food crisis in the Sahel right now, having locally-produced Plumpy'nut on hand couldn't be more important.

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