Jan 27, 2012 • By

Sowing the seeds of Davos

Before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, General Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell took time to reflect on his experiences in Davos during the past six years.

“Davos is particularly unique because of the many critical stakeholders who convene to address global issues,” says Ken. “My role in representing a global company in Davos is, most importantly, to listen and learn, as well as to contribute.”

Several years ago in Davos, Ken was invited to participate in a global forum on hunger in Africa.

“I was moved by the issue and the need that was discussed in that meeting, and the role that a food company like General Mills could play,” says Ken.

When Ken returned from that trip in 2007, he engaged our R&D leaders to begin exploring what General Mills could do to help food producers in Africa. Not only did they jump on the opportunity to make a difference, but 300 of our R&D and technical employees volunteered their time to work on a solution.

This idea that originated in Davos is known today as Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), a nonprofit organization founded by General Mills. The organization links the technical and business expertise of hundreds of volunteer scientists, engineers, and others at General Mills, Cargill, and DSM to small and medium-sized mills and food processors in Africa.

PFS draws upon other critical partners as well, including TechnoServe, with in-depth country knowledge that helps make for successful on-the-ground program implementation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which helps shape and guide PFS by sharing strengths, experiences, methodologies and resources through a public-private partnership formed in 2010.

PFS volunteers share food industry expertise in Africa, thereby boosting local economies and improving lives. Currently, Partners in Food Solutions is working with 28 food processors on 77 projects in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.

Ken is back in Davos this week to share key learnings from the development of this program on a panel called “High Level Nutrition” with PFS partner DSM.

Already, thousands of children are benefiting from the initiative. For example, in 2009, the World Food Programme asked PFS to help solve problems with shelf-life, smell, taste and color in its corn soy blend. The team determined the problem (undercooking), and initiated changes in ingredients and equipment.

The nearly 650,000 children in Malawi alone who depend on WFP’s corn soy blend are now getting sustenance that’s more nutritious, better-tasting and easier to digest.

“I think people will be interested in this because it is a very unique model,” says Ken. “The effort depends both on industry volunteers and partners, such as DSM and Cargill. This is very much a partnership.”

Hear this story from Ken’s perspective in this video clip:

You can hear more from Ken, on GeneralMills.com.

And he also was interviewed in Davos by Fox Business News here.

Editor’s note: The photo above, from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012, is copyright by World Economic Forum (weforum.org and swiss-image.ch – Photo by Remy Steinegger).