Amäzi Foods: Ugandan-Made Snacks Bursting with Flavor and Positive Impact

Andrew Marshall

 

It’s no secret that thru-hikers don’t generally have the best diet. Pounding out twenty-mile days tends to get a body hungry for Snickers bars and peanut butter, while the need to limit weight often results in a ramen-noodle-centered dinner menu. Sometimes even the attempt to eat healthy can result in buying packages of dried fruit from trailside grocery stores. Peep the ingredients list on a bag of dried mangos: sugar is often the second ingredient after the fruit itself! 

Enter Amäzi Foods, a dried fruit brand created by socially conscious entrepreneur Renee Dunn. Renee pursued an interdisciplinary economics degree in college and spent some time in Uganda while working on her thesis. It was there that the spark of the company that would become Amäzi Foods first kindled in her mind — and her stomach. 

“I was blown away by the local fruits. They were bursting with flavors unlike I'd ever had before. They were all organic and locally grown,” Renee said. 

 

 

“But I saw that they were really untapped. What I mean by that is there were not a lot of local opportunities for value addition. A lot of times entrepreneurs were just trading them on the roadside. A lot of fruit was going to waste. And there are really big issues of unemployment,” she continued.

 “So my thesis research was studying the dynamic of local entrepreneurship and really identifying that lack of market access was one of the biggest barriers [people there faced].”

Renee moved on to a career in the fitness and wellness industry but never forgot her time in Uganda, or the fruit she sampled there. So when she decided to start a business, tapping into Uganda’s delicious resources — and doing so in a way that benefited the growers there — was a no-brainer. 

 

Dried Fruit, and Nothing But

Amäzi Foods currently offers four products, each containing only three ingredients. And the Ugandan-grown fruit flavors are likely to have your mouth watering just from the names alone. 

Two varieties of dried pineapple (Moringa Hibiscus and Piña Colada) offer a sweet, chewy, tropical blast, while Ginger Lime Jackfruit brings a tangy, zesty flavor profile. The Salted Olive Oil Plantain Chips round out the quintet with a calorie-packed, crunchtastic punch generated by drying and roasting rather than frying in seed oil. 

To perfect her product, Renee leaned on her health and wellness background and her love for hiking. The result is a backpacking-friendly snack that provides a change of pace from Fritos but avoids the too-sweet pitfalls of many commercially produced dried fruits. 

“There’s no added sugars, no preservatives, nothing like that. They're very high in fiber, they're very filling, they're quick carbs, quick energy, but they digest easily, and they're a little more substantial than some of the more sugary snacks,” she said. 

Clean Eating

Ideas are easy, as every entrepreneur knows. Actually implementing a plan is another thing entirely, particularly if you are interested in ensuring every step of the process is socially conscious, as Renee is. 

“I worked to build our supply chain from the ground up and really tried to come up with thoughtful products that would be better for you and offer something unique and flavorful, but also address our mission of creating a more connected and sustainable supply chain,” Renee noted. 

It took Renee three years to create her ideal supply chain, one with “end-to-end visibility,” as she put it. The key was vertical integration — Amäzi Foods directly partners with its growers and co-owns the facility in Uganda that produces the snacks. 

“It’s all coming directly from the farm, right to the producers, right to the shelf. Everything happens from start to finish in Uganda. It's produced then and there at [the fruit’s] peak freshness. So, in terms of transparency and sustainability, we have a view into all of those practices. We also have transparency into the prices of the fruit, how much we’re paying farmers, how much we’re paying labor. We’ve worked really hard to build a farmer network of over 300 farmers,” Renee said. 

 

 

The work hasn’t been easy, even setting aside the multi-year process of developing a transparent supply chain. The food industry operates on notoriously thin margins, and competition is fierce. And international logistics can be complicated in times of global unrest, as we all remember from the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic. 

But for Renee, it’s worth it to do things the hard way. And if the upshot is a tasty, trail-friendly snack that nourishes the soul as well as the body? All the better. 

Amäzi Foods isn’t resting on its laurels. According to Renee, the brand is exploring beverages, co-branded products, incorporation into fair-trade chocolate bars, a variety of package sizes, and other experiments. 

“Big picture, who knows?” she said with a chuckle. “Maybe we'll be able to expand to other countries as well. It would be amazing to bring this model to other sourcing economies and see if we can connect more businesses with the global market.” 

That sounds like a win-win to us. 

 

Andrew Marshall tried his hand at documentary filmmaking, dorm-parenting 30 middle schoolers at a boarding school, and professional wedding photography before washing up on the rocky shores of outdoor journalism. Since then, he's written for Blue Ridge Outdoors, BikeRumor! ExplorersWeb, The Inertia, GearJunkie, Backpacking Light, and other web and print outlets. He's won multiple Excellence in Craft awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America in such diverse disciplines as writing, photography, and illustration. A committed dilettante with a tendency to be interested in just about everything, Andrew is also a published poet, a chess player (trail name: "Pawn"), an experienced long-distance backpacker, a mountain biker/bikepacker with a tendency to fly over the handlebars, and an extremely slow trail runner. Based in Western North Carolina, he enjoys hanging out with his two-year-old, eating biscuits and gravy, and checking out way more library books than one person could possibly read in three weeks. You can find more of Andrew's writing and watercolor illustrations here. 

 

 

Moringa Hibiscus Pineapple by Amäzi Foods on GGG Garage Grown Gear
Amäzi Foods

 

 

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