Among TIME’s 13 gods of food, Bolivian Sergio Nuñez de Arco is No.3!!

2013-11-09 10.47.24 amKudos to Sergio Nuñez de Arco and his brother Fabricio for allowing the rest of the world to benefit from our quinoa! I welcome them to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!

The 13 Gods of Food

Sometimes, a decision in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant far, far away may end up as the vegetable you serve your kids on Wednesday. Take kale, for example. A few months after chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York wrote up a kale recipe for a food magazine, the once forgotten vegetable became the focus of a healthy trend, a fashionable addition to the foodie plate and now has dug itself into the mainstream. There is something almost otherworldy in the way that happened and the other people (and one company) that we have designated “Gods of Food” have their own roles in working the magical thinking and eating that reaches our dinner tables. Here is the pantheon as we see it:

3. Sergio Nuñez de Arco. The Bolivia-born entrepreneur caught on to the attractions of the indigenous grain quinoa—and now the poor man’s food of his native country has struck it rich in the U.S.

What Is Quinoa? How Quinoa Became America’s Hottest Whole Grain and Brought New Income to Bolivian Farmers

By Matthew Thompson“Rediscovering Quinoa,”March/April 2013

Farming quinoa has become big buiness in rural Bolivia as quinoa’s nutrition and health benefits have made it the whole-grain darling of healthy diets.

“And what would you do without quinoa?” I ask.

He looks at me a second, thinking. “Our choice is simple: it’s ‘quinoa or emigrate.’”

One person trying to keep Bolivia’s quinoa industry healthy is Sergio Nuñez de Arco, a Bolivian-born, U.S.-raised entrepreneur. Together with his brother Fabricio and backed by trading house Specialty Commodities, he runs an importing business called Andean Naturals that accounts for a third of the quinoa sold in the United States. Though business is booming—what was initially a $90,000 investment six years ago is now a $30 million empire—when he speaks to quinoa farmers, his tone is cautious, not exuberant.

Nuñez de Arco’s company is working hard to help farmers get organic certification, develop sustainability plans and ensure they have enough quinoa for themselves. It takes a lot of work to bring lasting change to a region where caravans of smugglers still ply the sandy roads. Increased incomes and tractors are a start, but it’s going to take schools, Internet access and hospitals. “A lot of people tell me, ‘Stop living in Disneyland!’” he says as we bomb down an empty highway. “But to me, it’s like keeping a garden: you can try to grow one as big as possible and watch it all get out of control. Or,” and here he points toward the sweeping valley of dust and gold, “you can try to take care of a small one, where, if you have enough time and resources, you can make something beautiful thrive.”

Sergio Nuñez de Arco: The King of Quinoa

How the poor man’s food from the Andes made it in America

By Lisa Abend Monday, Nov. 18, 2013
Last year, Americans bought 57.6 million lb. (26.1 million kg) of a product that less than a decade earlier, few had heard of and fewer still could pronounce. The triumph of quinoa (kee-nwa), a grain grown primarily in Bolivia and Peru, was due largely to its gluten-free, high-protein, quick-cooking qualities. But it took Sergio Nuñez de Arco, a Bolivian-born, Berkeley-educated entrepreneur, to recognize that those qualities dovetailed neatly with his adopted country’s most acute dietary obsessions. Today, Nuñez de Arco’s company, Andean Naturals, imports a third of the quinoa sold in the U.S.

“Most quinoa is grown by small family farmers…,9171,2156852,00.html

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

3 thoughts on “Among TIME’s 13 gods of food, Bolivian Sergio Nuñez de Arco is No.3!!

  1. Thank you for the note. Growing up in Bolivia I often felt a sense that many Bolivians felt they were doomed to mediocrity- because of the country, the government (no matter who was in power at the time), the weather and anything else they could blame it on. One of our company’s goals is to inspire Bolivians to reach for excellence- in spite of all the difficulties we might find in our paths . We have the very best quinoa in the world. Let’s keep on adding to the list you are compiling!

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