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Soy-Fortified Complementary & Weaning Foods

Early childhood nutrition requires special attention because the weaning period is central to a child’s development and growth.  The Soybean innovation Lab (SIL) and its partners at the University for Development Studies (UDS) in northern Ghana have been collaborating to move towards commercial viability a new weaning food ComFA (Complementary Food for Africa) that combines high-energy orange flesh sweet potato with the high quality protein of soybean. SIL researcher, Dr. Juan Andrade, and UDS researcher, Dr. Francis Amagloh, conducted this research study to address the critical commercialization questions of acceptability and viability. 

Research shows ComFA to be superior in terms of nutrition and cost effectiveness when compared to the current offerings, Cerelac and Weanimix.  In this study, Amagloh and Andrade compare ComFA with Weanimix and Cerelac to answer the following three questions: 1) will mothers offer the ComFA to their children; 2) will the children consume the new nutritious food; and 3) is ComFA easier to prepare in the kitchen?  

The research team recognizes that a new food will not catch on in a society and benefit a child if the child does not want to eat it or the mother does not want to serve it. Similarly, SIL researchers evaluated the feasibility of the food – would mothers be able and willing to make it at home? Discovering positive answers to both of these questions, SIL researchers produced this report to support development projects interested in scaling this nutritionally beneficial product, but also to promote to the development community the importance of a holistic product evaluation process that includes understanding the commercial attributes. 

This report shares the evidence that ComFA’s nutrition, acceptability, and feasibility positions it to improve complementary feeding in West Africa. However, this report also calls for the need to continue the evaluation of ComFA to address key questions for successful scaling in Ghana, as well as in other countries. In particular, the researchers will turn their attention next to understanding the comparative energy use efficiency and the relative ingredient availability.

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Dr. Juan Andrade
Food Science & Human Nutrition
University of Illinois