Located in the middle of the Andean steep highlands and fertile valleys of Ayacucho, Wiraccocha del Peru continues to support the ancient knowledge of communities involved in organic food production. The family-owned business, which began in 2008, combines old and new techniques to preserve soil regeneration and biodiversity, to bring a sustainable supply of Andean grains and other superfoods from field-to-table.
"We are proud of the region's ancestral practices and are engaged in protecting and promoting the ancient grains of the Peruvian Andes and thus providing healthy products to many families of the world," said Glicerio Felices, general manager at Wiraccocha.
Working directly with small farmers, during its first seven years the company built a team of 1100 producers of white, red and black quinoa and amaranth. By the end of 2016, Wiraccocha had reached 1400 partners. It also expanded its product range, adding other super foods such as chia seeds- grown originally in Mexico and other parts of Central America, and introduced to South America less than two decades ago.
“We work hand in hand with small farmers in 117 communities during the whole year under social and environmental principles, ensuring organic production and sustainable and inclusive development," said Glicerio. At the office, there are now 54 direct collaborators between administrative, production staff and agricultural engineers. Wiraccocha closed 2016 with production of 2400 metric tons (mt) of quinoa, 400 mt of amaranth and chia, and over 2700 hectares of cultivation.
The growing demand of chia seed has been an increasingly important activity for the Wiraccocha operation. "Taking advantage of our privileged location in Ayacucho, near valleys between the Andean mountains, we project to expand production of organic chia, in collaboration with 200 farmers, in an area of 400 hectares."
Through the cultivation of these millenary grains, which are in demand due to their health benefits, the farmers see new opportunities to continue working on their lands, and therefore remaining close to their families. "We have also a wider range of products to satisfy the demand of our customers for Peruvian maca, goldenberry, lucuma, and cacao," said Glicerio.
“We will continue to consolidate our direct work with the farmers, assisting them technically to strengthen their organic farming skills and practices to guarantee the full traceability and quality of all our products."
In 2015 Wiraccocha was exporting to 12 countries. During 2016 the company exported to 18 countries. “We are glad to obtain new customers while strengthening our relationship with our current partners," said Glicerio. In 2017, Wiraccocha expects to supply customers in the US, Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim 3500 mt of organic foods.
Since the International Year of Quinoa in 2013, the price has been an issue for some growers and suppliers. Production and availability increased with the boom, and prices fell.
“Price is in direct relationship with offer and demand. Our work in the field and constant coordination with our customers has allowed us to maintain our prices at stable and competitive levels during 2016. These have fluctuated between 2.200 - 2.500 dollars per ton depending on technical specifications."
While Wiraccocha is committed to organic production, it also supplies a few clients with conventional products at a lower volume. Currently, 10 percent of its sales are conventional products.
Wiraccocha is also updating its branding and product presentations. "Over the years, we gained experience exporting products in bulk; now we are working in the retail line. With the consumer in mind, we are testing recipes and offering different retail packaging for projects under private label.”
"We believe that the consumption of healthy foods must be a pleasant experience, rich in nutrients and providing an excellent taste. Our R&D team is always innovating with different recipes, to introduce new mixes of ingredients and ready-to-prepare foods."
Wiraccocha will present a dessert with quinoa & amaranth flakes and puffed quinoa this season. All ingredients are precooked so that the end consumer will only need to add a liquid such as a vegetable milk.
“We also have developed other products for buyers to taste at BioFach, such as an instant soup and a mix for pancakes,” said Glicerio.
Wiraccocha will introduce its retail line with its brand to the Peruvian market and is currently working with a company in the US to offer its product range under private label.
Besides the USDA, EU, JAS. Canada and BioSuisse organic seals, Wiraccocha has obtained other certifications such as UTZ, NSF certified gluten free, and Control Union Fair Choice, a social and fair trade standard. And this year, its two factories were granted The British Retail Consortium (BRC) certification ensuring compliance of high quality and traceability standards.
Wiraccocha places great importance on attending shows to meet its customers and to seek out opportunities. "The trade fairs are an excellent opportunity to be close to our clients, to see new trends and to make us known as a stable Peruvian company.” This season they plan to take part in BioFach in Nuremberg, Natural Products Expo West, in Anaheim, Sial Canada in Toronto, and the Fancy Food Show in New York. Commitment and a long-term vision are key elements to succeed, especially in the export market.