OFSP puree: Nutritional wheat flour substitute

Increasing demand for nutritionally beneficial bread made with orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) puree is helping to combat vitamin A deficiency in Africa, whilst growing a profitable market for bakers and OFSP farmers.

Over 2,000 OFSP bread loaves and buns are being produced by bakeries in Nairobi each week. © Tawanda Muzhingi/CIP

Bakers in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria are using OFSP puree in wheat bread to increase its nutritional value and, with less imported wheat flour and sugar needed, reduce production costs by up to 15%. Farmers are also benefitting from this trend as the increased demand for OFSP, combined with higher prices offered by bakers and processors, is raising their incomes. With a higher content of beta-carotene than the white or yellow sweet potato varieties predominantly cultivated in Africa, the switch to OFSP is helping to improve vitamin A consumption on the continent.

Prior to sweet potato value additions (processing into puree, flour and sweeteners) less than 20% of produce was sold commercially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, over the last 3 years, the International Potato Centre (CIP) has been advocating the nutritional benefits of OFSP through various initiatives, including training bakers in Ghana and Nigeria to make bread with 40% of the wheat substituted for steamed OFSP puree. Fatai Ganiyu, a trained baker from Nigeria, supplies OFSP composite bread to 20 schools and has been told the children love the taste. To bake enough bread, Ganiyu requires 60 kg of OFSP roots every 2 weeks, which he buys from a small farm near his bakery.

According to CIP, only about 125 g of OFSP is needed to supply the required daily amount of vitamin A and one slice of 40% OFSP bread provides 5-10% of this requirement. Dr Tawanda Muzhingi, food scientist at the CIP-SSA regional office, says sweet potato generally provides more edible energy per hectare than wheat, rice, or cassava. It is also a good source of dietary fibre (2.5-3.3 g/100 g), potassium, vitamins C and E, and has a low glycemic index.

In 2014, viable bread recipes using at least 40% OFSP puree to replace wheat flour were developed through CIP partnerships with supermarket chains in Kenya. OFSP puree is preferred to flour, not only because processing OFSP into flour reduces the vitamin A content, but also because it is more efficient – 1 kg of OFSP flour requires about 5-7 kg of fresh OFSP, whilst 1 kg of OFSP puree only requires about 1.5 kg of OFSP roots. The recipes have created a need for increased OFSP production with the largest supermarket chain in Eastern Africa – Organi Limited – now buying OFSP fresh roots from farmers at a price 10% above local market prices. The supermarket processes the roots and supplies 2-3 t of puree to around 30 bakeries in Kenya each week. These bakeries are currently making more than 2,000 OFSP bread loaves and buns (weighing 400 g) per week.

This scale of demand for OFSP bread is replicated in Ghana and Nigeria, generating a profitable market for farmers as consumers are willing to pay a premium due to the nutritional benefits and better taste. CIP plans to further broaden this market to Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Oluyinka Alawode

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.