From lockdown experiments to a nationwide business: How Moft Dulce is championing healthy treats across Moldova
In August 2023, it will be two years since Moft Dulce launched their operations in Moldova. Their team is currently made up of twelve people, they have their own warehouse and production facility, and their products are sold in more than fifty shops and marketplaces around Chisinau, and they are getting ready to expand to Romania with their products, already establishing partnerships with local distributors in the country and working on acquiring all necessary certificates.
Walnuts are the basis of all the products that they produce, and through their manufacturing process, they manage to stay preserved for longer and extend the shelf life of the products. The products are also without any preservatives, palm oil or gluten. Currently, their main products are various spreads that are made from walnut pasta and caramel.
From a sweet-tooth to a nationwide business
Nadejda Hadijvu, the currently 25 year old founder and owner of Moft Dulce, shares her reflections on how it all started. “I first went to college to study IT, but soon after realized it wasn’t really my thing. So, I went to university and studied International Relations. As part of the course of study, we had a semester abroad in the USA. And I tried peanut butter for the first time there – I fell in love with the taste instantly, we didn’t have anything like it back home at the time.”
Originally, Nadejda was planning to finish her studies and move permanently to the United States, but COVID-19 ended up putting everything on hold. While home during lockdown, Nadejda started experimenting with her blender in an attempt to recreate the taste that she liked. She shared the results on her Facebook page, and within 24 hours, already had hundreds of messages of people showing interest in trying out the recipe.
“MOFT means having a craving, it’s like indulging in something for yourself. It’s not the typical kind of product we had, we didn’t grow up with these types of food.”
Starting from scratch in the food industry
“I think I made a lot of mistakes when I was trying to start. I was all on my own, I didn’t know anything: how can I get a license, how can I get inside the shops, what did I need to do to manufacture the product? How do I get machines? I didn’t have a lot of support around me, and people didn’t take me seriously. They said manufacturing is too hard, you are too young, just get a steady job, you don’t need to start your own business. All the money that I got in the first year was going back into the business, I had zero in my bank account. Nobody understood why I was still going.”
Now, Moft Dulce have their own manufacturing facility, which houses the machinery, packaging and offices for the team. They have also compiled their machinery out of local parts and available local materials, to compensate for the disruption in supply chains and further support the local economy. The team also consists of dedicated food technologists that are responsible for product development, and are working on introducing a new chocolate line.
“My biggest challenge throughout the last years was getting the product in shops, in new markets and fairs where a lot of people can see it, interact with the team and get to know the brand. But, now I have a lot of friends and partners in the community that help us.”
There is also a dedicated operational focus that goes into making sure the products are sustainable and healthy. Moft sources their raw materials from local farmers, and collaborate with local distributors and manufacturers.
The impact of the program
Speaking of community, Nadejda highlights the impact of being part of the FEMEIE network on her personal and professional development.
“I applied for the program because one of my friends who has her own business in the food industry also applied and told me about it. And here, I met a lot of people, we have a good relationship now and help each other out. I also met entrepreneurs from Ukraine who have partnerships and contact with similar brands in the country and are now supporting me in getting connected.”
The war led to increasing prices in production and raw material, and difficulty in importing some of the packages which they were buying from Ukraine. Nadedja’s goal with the program is to keep their team on board, to be able to afford local alternatives, and to keep their products at the same price. To date, they have utilized the financial support to improve their logistics and capacity for online orders to increase the distribution of their product within and outside the city.
What would you say to other women who are aspiring to become leaders and create a difference?
“The advice that I would have for others like me is to believe in you. Don’t wait for someone to tell you where to start. It will not be easy. Just believe in you. Know where you come from and what you want to achieve, and just focus on that. And lastly, love the road to achieving your goals.”
Moft Dulce is working to expand their products to markets all across Europe and the USA, with the goal of introducing unique flavors that bring a spark of joy to more everyday lives.