Micronutrient deficiencies: addressing the global burden
We have more than 140 years’ experience in enhancing the nutritional profile of food products and today, many of our products are fortified with micronutrients – especially in the most commonly occurring deficiencies such as iron and vitamin A.
We use information from local governments and international health authorities to identify the different nutritional gaps in diets. We then ‘renovate’ our portfolio by adding the relevant nutrients, focusing on popular foods.
We aim to continue our micronutrient fortification activities in 2013, and beyond.
Micronutrient fortification of Popularly Positioned Products
It’s important that our fortified products reach the people who need them most – so they must be enjoyable, nutritious and affordable.
We market a growing number of Popularly Positioned Products (PPPs), high quality food products that provide nutritional value at a price people can afford. They include everything from culinary products to beverages and dairy. More than 4,000 PPPs are currently available around the world. Fortifying our Popularly Positioned Products (PPPs) with micronutrients can help address deficiencies where they are most prevalent.
To help address the most widespread micronutrient deficiency – a lack of iodine – which affects 2 billion people worldwide, we’ve developed iodine-enriched Maggi brand products using iodized salt, including bouillons, seasonings and noodles.
Iodine fortification is included in more than 860,000 tonnes of Maggi products - including bouillons, seasonings, noodles, soups and recipe mixes - in many countries around the world. Based on respective serving size, we estimate the total number of individual servings fortified with iodine to be approximately 100 billion in 2012. In addition to iodine, we have initiated an iron fortification programme in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, Central America, Central West African countries and Pacific Islands. We estimate that from approximately 100,000 tonnes of bouillons, seasonings and noodles sold in those countries in 2012, around 84 billion individual servings of our products include iron fortification, up from 51 billion in 2011.
Our efforts to target micronutrient fortification where it’s most needed have been underscored by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute’s work on public health and the issues it has highlighted: for example, while milk is a good carrier for micronutrients in many countries, given that 80% of people in China are lactose intolerant to various degrees, alternative carriers such as culinary sauces and cereals are more appropriate in that country. The Institute has also worked hard to highlight the problems of malnutrition affecting mothers and their unborn children in developing countries and acted as a catalyst for action on other nutritional issues.
We’ve supported the launch of all our fortified Maggi products with advertising and information campaigns that promote their health benefits, their affordability and the benefits of combining them with fresh, locally sourced products. These fortifications, which we highlight on packaging and through marketing campaigns, along with the benefits of eating fresh, local ingredients and home cooking, have helped us achieve a 16% growth in 2012, in CWAR, our biggest fortified bouillon market. In a number of developing countries, including India, we’ve also successfully reduced salt in Maggi products, while also ensuring consumer taste preference.
Reach of fortified Maggi products at the end of 2012
Focusing on health economics
Responding to feedback on our 2008 Nutrition report, we created an independent research grant to support our understanding of both the personal and macroeconomic impact of our fortified foods.
A joint project with the University of Zurich’s Department of Applied Sciences has already established that fortified milks and infant cereals can reduce anaemia by as much as 50% and produced ‘anaemia maps’ to highlight where it is most prevalent. The project is now focused on assessing the macroeconomic impacts of under-nutrition. A separate study by the World Bank Group suggests that action to reduce under-nutrition can add 2-3% to national GDP. If this project reaches similar conclusions it may encourage local governments to partially fund the provision of fortified foods.
Bio-fortification: Developing crops that help bridge the nutrient gap
With the growing realisation that micronutrient fortification is a critical component of bridging the micronutrient gap for both adults and children, especially in developing countries, we launched a new research programme that seeks to use conventionally bred crops that are naturally rich in micronutrients. This is done by cross-breeding varieties that are rich in micronutrients with high-yield varieties to produce high-yielding, nutritious crops. For instance, cassava that is rich in vitamin A is being bred in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, while rice rich in iron and zinc is being developed for Madagascar. These will be integrated within future product lines as an alternative to fortification. By sourcing conventionally bred staple food crops which are bio-fortified, we hope to increase the quality of raw materials used in production while promoting the planting and consumption of plant foods rich in vitamins and minerals by rural populations in developing countries.
Nutrient Balance: supporting nutritional improvement of foods
We created the Nutrient Balance Concept as a tool to determine the contributions of nutrients in foods, meals and diets relative to populations’ daily nutritional requirements. The tool allows a quantitative presentation of the nutrient densities and the contribution of nutrients of foods in relation to their energy content. Most importantly, the characterization of foods by the Nutrient Balance Concept reveals the contributions of daily food consumption to overall nutrient security. As a consequence, it creates a sound basis for the development of specific solutions for nutritional improvement of foods, for example, through micronutrient fortification and the reduction of added sugars, salt and saturated fat.