The background: More than 850 million people live in a state of hunger.
The solution: Nutriset, a private French company, has a hit on its hands. Plumpy'nut, its patented nutritional supplement, was distributed to an estimated 500,000 children last year - double the number in 2005 and up from just 120,000 in 2004. One 3-ounce packet delivers 500 calories. Plumpy'nut is a thick brown paste made from ground peanuts, sugar, and powdered milk, fortified with vitamins and minerals. Plumpy'nut isn't perishable and travels easily.
The payoff: Orders from big buyers like Unicef helped Nutriset's sales topped $25 million in 2006, up from $6.5 million in 2001. Nutriset reinvests 80 percent of its profit - or about $2.5 million during the past year - into developing new products, and the firm is partnering with entrepreneurs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Niger to produce Plumpy'nut locally.
The opportunity: With no direct competitors and so many hungry people on the planet, Nutriset's future growth looks certain. Sometimes the best solution to a big problem is a small one.