The opening of a new world-class therapeutic food production facility in Cape Town is a triumph for relief agencies operating in Africa where one in three childhood deaths are linked to malnutrition.

The facility is a joint venture between South African shareholders and Norwegian-based GC Rieber Compact and will make and distribute aready-to-use therapeutic food product called eeZeePaste, specifically designed for extremely malnourished children between the ages of 6 and 24 months.

The development of therapeutic food products such as eeZeePaste has revolutionized the treatment of severe malnutrition because it allows infants and children to be safely treated at home. These ready-to-use products are designed to be consumed directly from the sachet without any preparation and therefore avoid accidental contamination from unsafe water sources. The product also has a 24-month shelf life and is easily transportable making it an ideal response to malnutrition in remote or difficult to access areas.

The new facility has also reinforced Cape Town’s position as a world-class food-processing destination. “The agribusiness value chain is particularly well-established in the Western Cape, and this makes it particularly appealing to investors in the agri-processing and biotechnology sectors,” explained Wesgro’s Head of Investment Promotion Salman Kajie.

“We did a comprehensive country evaluation and found that Cape Town is head and shoulders above other locations in terms of food safety and facilities,” explained Guy Baxter, CEO of GC Rieber Compact South Africa.

What differentiates the GC Rieber Compact from other locally produced ready-to-use fortified foods is that it is the only UNICEF accredited producer in South Africa and one of only 13 in the world.

“The factory has undergone the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) FSSC22000 food safety audit and accreditation and is now a recommended supplier to UNICEF and other leading humanitarian and aid agencies,” prides Baxter.

Freightage also played an important role in their decision to base the plant in Cape Town. “Cape Town has excellent transport networks and provides easy access to GC Rieber’s markets in East and Central Africa and South East Asia,” said Kajie.

As the Western Cape’s official Tourism, Trade, and Investment Promotion Agency, Wesgro was instrumental in connecting GC Rieber with the City of Cape Town and the Department of Agriculture. “The customized commercial intelligence definitely helped us navigate the local regulatory framework and obtain the relevant approvals,” said Baxter.

The new facility has already created 21 high-quality new jobs and this number is expected to increase in the near future. “We are excited about this facility, not only because it provides an opportunity for Africa to create life-saving nutritional solutions for her own people but also because the multimillion Rand project represents a clear vote of confidence in South Africa as an investment destination,” said Baxter.

UNICEF data estimates that worldwide, more than 34 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition while an additional 17 million children suffer from its most extreme form, severe acute malnutrition, and require specialised therapeutic feeding care in the form of preparations such as eeZeePaste.