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Fréderic Bostyn, The Nutty Farmer:

"Burkina Faso growers produce delicious cashews, but it's time they benefit too"

More and more people are eating nuts. Their health benefits made them super popular during the pandemic, and that has not waned since then. Fréderic Bostyn, however, noticed that there was still a significant preference for peanuts or cocktail nuts. That could and had to change, he thought, leading to the creation of The Nutty Farmer. "We want to not only market delicious Fairtrade cashew nuts but also make a difference for growers in Burkina Faso," begins the Flemish entrepreneur.

Fréderic got the idea back in 2021. "I was looking for nuts at the supermarket, and it struck me that there wasn't much else available apart from greasy peanuts or cocktail nuts. That got me thinking. I started experimenting with natural nuts and some spices at home. I sold the nuts in jam jars in my mother's farm shop as a hobby. Much to my surprise, the product caught on. There was interest, which encouraged me to consider taking it up on a larger scale."

"Deciding to focus on cashew nuts was an easy choice. They are the best nuts to process because they have a very neutral, subtle flavor and playful shape. Yet, I felt I shouldn't expand for the sake of expanding. I wanted to genuinely look into how everything works in the nut chain. I quickly encountered major problems in the sector. Several companies have tackled these issues in recent years," Fréderic says.

"But I didn't want to simply make money off the backs of growers. I wanted to address the problems. Many nuts are harvested in Africa and sent to Asia for shelling and then to, say, the Netherlands or Belgium. That's unsustainable, and all the profit drains from Africa. Most of that profit is made from shelling because you can market a finished product instead of a raw crop."

Burkina Faso
Fréderic eventually ended up at Fairtrade Belgium, which supports companies like The Nutty Farmer. "They put me in touch with farmer cooperatives in Burkina Faso, where the nuts are harvested, but where the shelling is done, too. We decided to start a whole project around those cooperatives. It's based on three pillars. Firstly, working directly with the cooperatives and then always working 100% Fairtrade," he says.

"That ensures better prices and working conditions for the farmers. Lastly, we want to set up our own projects in Burkina Faso. Last year, for instance, we put up a water tower at a cooperative, and currently, we're building a small school. With Fairtrade Belgium's help, we aim to realize at least one project per year."

"We're fully focusing on Burkina Faso. That's, of course, provided everything goes according to plan because there's been some unrest in that country. Regardless, the intention is to make a difference by focusing on a single country," says Bostyn.

"We can make the most impact that way. You can't just set up something in different countries with different cooperatives every year, especially because we're implementing projects on-site. That should bear the most fruit. Plus, Burkina Faso produces excellent quality nuts, enabling such initiatives to be set up. Burkina Faso growers produce delicious nuts, but it's time they benefit from them, too."

Savory and sweet
That is a very noble goal, but it is hard to achieve without a good product on the market. "We've developed three different ranges of savory and sweet, which are well received. We have, for example, spiced cashew nuts in unique flavors. Not traditional flavorings like salt or paprika, but pomegranate/thyme/pepper/cumin and curry/rosemary. We also have a sweet range with three different types of chocolates. Think of milk chocolate with salted caramel or dark chocolate with pink pepper/sea salt or orange/chili," Fréderic explains.

"Finally, there's a third range purely for the food service. These are cashew crunch toppings made from the nut pieces that crumble off in the factory in Burkina Faso. We spice and roast this 'upcycled' food product here and sell it as a crunchy topping for dishes. It's like a hazelnut crunch but slightly tastier. It's used a lot in salads instead of whole nuts. In this way, we want to make a difference for the growers in Burkina Faso."

Popular nuts
This Belgian company seems to be quite successful. "We've built up a nice customer base of Belgian specialty stores and in the food service. We do a little bit in France, too, and have recently started in England, where there's plenty of potential. Ultimately, we'd like to make the step to the Netherlands, but gaining a foothold there is tough. Despite the Netherlands being a true nut country with many special nut shops, there's a lot of competition, and Dutch nuts are often fried; we roast ours. It's a different kind of production process," Fréderic continues.

"Nevertheless, nuts offer great potential. They're becoming somewhat pricier, and cocoa prices have skyrocketed, but there will always be a market. Considering the health benefits, people will always be willing to spend that money. That's been an ongoing health trend in the Netherlands for a while, but volumes have also been rising significantly in Belgium lately. We still have to compete with peanuts, but staying positive is part of it."

"I believe we can make a true difference. The ultimate goal is to have as much of the production process as possible in Burkina Faso. Not just shelling but roasting and spicing, too. That still happens in Belgium, but you create the most added value for the country's people if everything's done in Burkina Faso. We still have a long way to go, but that's the end goal," concludes Fréderic.

For more information:
Fréderic Bostyn
The Nutty Farmer
3 Drielinden Street
8554, Sint-Denijs, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 492 521 312
[email protected]

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