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Apr 24, 2012

Woman Entrepreneur From Panama, Founder of a Gluten-Free Food Company Wins 3rd UNCTAD Women in Business Award

Melissa De León 
founder of Panama Gourmet
winner of 2012 UNCTAD Empretec
Women in Business Award
Photo: CreaPanama
On 24 April 2012 the U.N. Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued a press release announcing that Melissa De León, founder of Panama Gourmet, a company which produces gluten-free foods was the winner of 2012 UNCTAD Empretec Women in Business Award.  The prize was awarded at a gala dinner honoring "Women in Development" on the third day of the UNCTAD XIII quadrennial conference held in Doha, Qatar.  It honors businesswomen from developing countries who have founded successful firms, created jobs, and become role models in their communities.

The UNCTAD Empretec Women in Business Award is awarded by the Empretec programme, which offers entrepreneurship training iin 33 countries. The program is administered by UNCTAD's Investment and Enterprise Division in cooperation with national partners.

Ms. De León was awarded first place for her entrepreneurial efforts to create Panama Gourmet.  This business provides gluten-free food products and at the same time makes use of local Panamanian produce.  The products are made from a flour especially created by Panama Gourmet from the tubers of locally grown Panamanian crops.  This allows supply farmers to reap extra income from selling materials that might otherwise have gone to waste.  Panama Gourmet's food products use no additives or preservatives and have a shelf-life of 12 months.  Gluten-free foods are a growing sector of the food industry.  They provide nutritional options for people who are diabetics, have celiac disease, or digestive problems. Panama Gourmet has grown to have ten employees, eight of whom are women.

Women entrepreneurs from Brazil and Jordan took second and third prizes.  Second prize went to Patricia Paz Silva Giordani of Brazil, who founded the firm Moura e Paz - Soluções Ambientais, which provides the safe transport and treatment of dangerous industrial and medical waste for business clients in one of the poorest states in Brazil. Third place went to Rahda Kurdi of Jordan who founded Advanced Pharmaceutical Services. This company works as an association providing economies of scale to small pharmaceutical businesses so that they may compete with the large chains in the Jordanian pharmacy sector.

UNCTAD’s Empretec programme provides training to women entrepreneurs, as well as young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in rural areas.

For more see:

Panamanian who produces gluten-free food products wins 3rd UNCTAD Women in business award, UNCTAD Press Release, 24 April 2012.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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