Drink to Life

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Drink to Life: Poverty reduction through prenatal nutrition

United StatesGhana
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Drink to Life provides vitamin fortified drinks to support healthy pregnancies,thereby reducing poverty. Proper prenatal nutrition breaks the cycle of poverty by protecting mothers and developing children of sound body and mind who can pursue their dreams with a fair start.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could remove barriers to healthy child physical and mental developmental so that children in developing countries could have the opportunity they deserve to pursue their dreams with a fair start.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) kills 2 million children a year. For survivors, their physical and cognitive development is impaired, both reducing lifetime earnings and increasing their odds of delivering malnourished children in adulthood. Annually, these combined burdens shrink SSA GDPs by 2 to 7 %. Proposed interventions remain largely ineffective. SSA is the only region with more malnourished children today than 10 years ago.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

First, rather than cure, we will prevent malnutrition. The majority of the above economic and social costs stem from failure to nourish infants during the critical period between conception and their second birthday, during which damage from malnutrition is irreversible. Interventions such as PlumpyNut are useful but administered too late in a child’s life-cycle. Drink to Life’s prenatal beverages support healthy pregnancies and will nourish a new generation during critical development. Second, we distribute through market channels in a sustainable fashion. Adding micronutrients to beverages (vs. selling them alone as powders) allows local vendors to earn money through micro-franchising and extend access into otherwise inaccessible areas


This is our first public proposal
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Hope is a Ghanaian seamstress and soon-to-be mom. She follows her mother’s advice, eating for two for a healthy pregnancy and strong child. Hope’s diet however, like 45% of urban dwellers, is comprised of rice and sauce, low in vital nutrients like iron. Even in excess quantities, her diet lacks sufficient micronutrients for healthy fetal development and leaves her, like 52% of her pregnant friends, anemic and at higher risk of death during pregnancy. Hope learns about Drink to Life at the market and drinks it 3x weekly, replacing soda. Within a few weeks, her iron status improves. 9 months later, anemia free, Hope gives birth to a beautiful baby girl, who properly nourished in the womb is less likely to be malnourished as a future mother.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We are still in product development but hope to follow the success of 26 previous clinical studies. Of the 26, 10 were randomized control trials spanning 7 countries and reaching more than 4,500 beneficiaries. Current literature advocates fortified beverages as an effective means of improving micronutrient status and achieving positive physical outcomes like, increased birthweight, preventing iodine deficient IQ losses (up to 12 points for mild cases) reducing the number of anemia related maternal deaths. Healthier mothers lead to healthier children and frees families from burdensome healthcare costs, the majority of which occur before a child’s 1st birthday. For example, educating the 1 in 5 Nigerian mothers who consume Coke daily to instead try a prenatal drink would extend the aforementioned benefits to 950,000 pregnant women in Nigeria and 3.5 million in the Sub Sahara Region.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our focus is West Africa. However, we recognize nutritional shortcomings are not unique to the region; if it succeeds in West Africa we see no reason not to support more pregnancies by extending the micro-franchises. We also recognize that fortified drinks are not the panacea but we hope our success inspires action by the private and public sectors and affords them another blueprint with which they can continue to invest in a country’s health. Hopefully these solutions will create private-public health partnerships to help not only pregnant women but those in need across all walks of life.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Drink to Life sells and distributes prenatal beverages to a potential beneficiary market of 18 million mothers. DTL is for-profit and will achieve financial sustainability through the proven FMCG model of leveraging micro-franchises to drive demand and reduce last mile distribution costs and by outsourcing production to reduce capex. DTL projects positive cash flows in 18 months for a 10% Ghanaian market penetration of 2-3x beverages per week.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Nutriset and over-the-counter vitamins make up the majority of the market. Nutriset’s products, however, are curative vs. preventive and prevalent in rural areas where they are sold directly to NGOs (UNICEF, etc) to reach those below the poverty line, who are outside DTL’s target market. Most pharmacy vitamins are produced overseas; packaged to market to non-African consumers; often requiring prescriptions and sold in month supplies, pricing them out of the general population’s budget. Drink to Life proposes targeted products sold as a single serving available without a prescription.

Founding Story

Dr. Traore is a pediatrician who treats severe and acute malnutrition in the Leon district of Burkina Faso. He has seen the long term effects on children whose bodies, withered from lack of sufficient iron and vital nutrients, recover but do not thrive in therapeutic food programs. He knew the unpopular prenatal iron-folate tablets were not enough. When we saw a pregnant mother avoid dirty tap water to instead purchase mineral water for herself and her infant, we asked ourselves - what if we fortified water? After examining a clinical trial in Tanzania in which fortified drinks reduced the rate of iron deficiency during pregnancy by 90%, we knew we had to use our skills to help people


1) Jordan Sawadogo: A Princeton graduate in Chemical Engineering, Jordan has valuable experience in both operations and product development. From spending the past three years as a petroleum field engineer in Ghana, Chad and Equatorial Guinea to designing in-house analysis techniques at NASA, Jordan is familiar with creating and scaling new processes. Jordan leads product development from D.C. and Ouagadougou and works full time for Drink to Life. 2) Justin Karfo: A Princeton graduate in operations research and Financial Engineering, Justin has valuable experience in both financial analysis and project management. Currently, a Senior Analyst at Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) based in Abidjan, Mr. Karfo worked prior with the United Nations Development Program, Goldman Sachs and Thomson Reuters. Justin works part time on all financial planning and business development efforts between Abidjan and Ouagadougou for Drink to Life. 3) Dr. Blaise Traore: A Pediatrician with a medical degree from the University of Ouagadougou and a masters in public health from University of Senghor d’Alexandrie, Dr. Traore is Drink-to-Life's resident health expert. Dr. Traore heads the LVIA project against acute malnutrition in the Leo district and previously worked at Centre de Récupération et d’Education Nutritionnel in infant and mother health. He is the founder of Société Médico-Sociale, which seeks to raise local health awareness and supports Drink to Life part time from Ouagadougou as lead medical coordinator.
CO-CREATION IDEA: Please offer a brief description of how you imagine a win-win partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to better serve unmet needs in health. (Hint: Please mention the underlying business model envisioned that would make such a partnership sustainable.)

Drink to Life (DTL) will leverage Boehringer (BI)’s success in Pharmaton Matruelle, a proven comprehensive prenatal vitamin, to accelerate product development, bolster beneficiary confidence and reduce costs through co-procurement along BI’s existing supply chain. Developing a prenatal drink with a nutritional profile similar to Matruelle will be operationally and cost efficient for both BI and Drink to Life.
In exchange, DTL offers BI a double bottom line of royalty revenue from beverage sales and promotion as a socially conscious company via product packaging and labeling. By establishing brand presence through DTL’s knowledge of local markets and distribution channels, BI would gain access to growing African consumer health markets.

NEEDS: Based on you response above, please specify which of the following resources, operations or expertise by Boehringer Ingelheim you imagine leveraging to actualize the proposed co-creation opportunity. Please check all that apply. (Hint: while financing is often critical to scale, we are also interested in understanding what other assets or expertise could be leveraged).

Research and Development, Relationships/New Contacts, Manufacturing, Legal Support, Technology Expertise, Access to Capital.

EXPLANATION OF NEEDS: Please explain your choices in more detail.

Prize money will fund product development. BI’s assistance is largely non-financial and includes:
R&D: While Drink to Life's team includes pediatricians, BI’s experience with Pharmatron Maturelle offers valuable insight on product side effects, nutrient bioavailability, interactions, etc.
Manufacturing: Procuring raw materials in conjunction with those sourced for Maturelle. Quality control of nutrient premix prior to export.
New Contacts: Access to senior logistic and operations managers.
Legal Advice: Navigating prenatal liability
Early stage capital to source raw materials.

OFFER: What are the main assets you may contribute in a co-creation partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim that would better serve unmet needs in health?

Deep understanding of an unmet need in a specific market/context, Access to and established trust with customers/beneficiaries, Insights into pricing and financing of health products/services, Insights into marketing, Insights into distribution, Insights into behavior change.

FOCUS AREAS: Which of the following best describes the main focus of your project? (select all that apply)

Holistic solutions that work across the entire care continuum (including education, prevention, detection, treatment, management, follow-up), Models that engage other industry players (e.g., nutrition, athletic, mobility organizations)., Packaging of health products and services to address needs currently unmet.

Please share what your organisation and Boehringer Ingelheim will Co-Create together
Please specify what your Co-Creation will result in:

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Please provide a 1-2 sentence summary of your Co-Creation idea
How does this project link to the core mission of your organisation?
Beyond social impact, how does this project link to Boehringer Ingelheim’s core business?
What are the specific inputs and actions that each side will contribute to this Co-Creation idea based on each of your unique competencies and experiences?
Please describe the potential revenue model for this Co-Creation idea.
What possible risks or challenges do you foresee?
Is there anything else you would like to share about your Co-Creation idea?
How much input do you hope to receive from Boehringer Ingelheim?

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Besides Boehringer Ingelheim, what other types of partners might be valuable to carrying out your Co-Creation idea, and why?