By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach almost 10 billion, while the lack of affordable nutritious foods continues to be a challenge, with millions suffering from hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.
On the other hand, consumers are demanding healthier, natural and more sustainable food products and shifting towards a plant-based diet. Sustainability and environmental concerns are leading consumers to demand food choices that are not only good for them, but good for the planet.
We can only meet the needs of this growing world population through innovation, while protecting the environment and tackling climate change in line with our commitment to net zero by 2050. Within R&D, we are driving bold science and technology, to offer people safe, affordable, high quality nutrition.
By speeding up the transformation of our products in line with consumer trends and choices, we're launching tasty and healthy products with a better environmental footprint that contribute to a balanced diet. Our plant-based food research is vital here, and we have around 300 scientists, engineers and product developers – almost 10% of R&D employees worldwide – active in this area.
Take our plant-based tuna alternative, Nestlé's first move into the growing market for plant-based seafood alternatives. Made with only six ingredients, the product is rich in environmentally friendly pea protein, contains the same essential amino acids found in tuna and is free of artificial colorings or preservatives.
And this is just one highlight in our plant-based portfolio. Nestlé R&D has also developed alternatives to burgers, meatballs, sausages, ground beef, chicken nuggets and filet pieces, as well as veggie-centric bakes, falafel and more.
Plant-based dairy alternatives are nutritious, great-tasting and have a favorable environmental footprint. Here, our plant-based and lactose-free products cater for consumers who cannot consume dairy products or simply want to reduce their consumption of animal-based products.
Our recently inaugurated R&D Accelerator in Konolfingen, Switzerland, drives innovation and speed-to-market for innovations in this space, and also develops sustainable dairy products.
Today Nestlé offers a variety of products made from rice, oat, soy, coconut and almond non-dairy alternatives. For example, Wunda, is a protein- and fiber-rich pea-based beverage that is carbon neutral. You can use it just like milk – on cereal, in hot beverages like tea or coffee, in desserts and for baking or cooking.
Other examples include dairy-free Milo in Asia, natural bliss coffee creamers in the U.S., Nesfit rice-based and oat-based drinks in Brazil, and Nescafé cappuccinos and lattes in Europe and Oceania. We've also developed a non-dairy cheese range that complements our existing plant-based burgers. And Nestlé’s first vegan KitKat has just hit the shelves!
Alongside this increased focus on plant-based foods and beverages, we're working to improve the nutrition of our products generally - by reducing salt, sugar and saturated fats and adding healthier ingredients such as whole grains and micronutrients.
Today 56% of the global population lives on USD 2-10 per day, so our work to provide affordable nutrition, and diversified diets that deliver all the nutrients people require, is an important goal. Another vital R&D focus is our work to fortify affordable products with locally relevant micronutrients.
We're focused on closing the 'protein gap' by adjusting processes, recipes and using local raw materials – to develop innovative products using affordable high quality, plant-based proteins. There, our R&D Center for affordable nutrition in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, is playing a key role.
Solutions always need to be adapted to the local context, which requires expertise, local insight, and entrepreneurial spirit. For example, we're collaborating with universities in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as passionate young scientists and startups from the region, to develop new and innovative solutions.
We research and develop science-based nutritional solutions to promote health across life stages from pre-conception to healthy aging. Key programs include gastrointestinal health, nutrition and dietary recommendations, metabolic health, brain health, healthy aging and personalized nutrition.
In the field of infant and maternal nutrition, we’re looking at breastmilk composition and the impact of nutrition on the first 1000 days of life.
One of our recent advances is the inclusion of Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) in infant formulas. HMOs are the third most abundant solid component in breastmilk after lactose and fat and play a key role in supporting an infant’s intestinal function and immune system.
We’re looking at how the mother’s diet influences her breast milk composition, and ways to optimize this. Maternal nutrition is another important research area, and in 2019 we launched MATERNA Opti-Lac, a probiotic-based supplement for lactating mothers that helps reduce the risk of breast pain and mastitis.
Over many years, Nestlé has studied the gut microbiome and its evolving composition throughout different life stages, in humans and pets. Recently, we partnered with the University of California San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation (CMI) to further increase our understanding of the microbiome’s impact on human health and accelerate the development of innovative nutritional solutions to promote health and wellbeing.
We’re translating our microbiome research into prebiotic, probiotic and symbiotic products that help maintain healthy digestion and wellbeing. One example is Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Calming Care, which contains a probiotic strain that helps dogs maintain calm behavior.
By exploring the relationship between nutrition and aging, we’re looking at the mitochondrial function of cells and developing innovative products, from Nestlé Health Science, that support healthy aging – in areas such as muscle, joint and bone health, brain health, and metabolic health.
One adult milk drink, YIYANG Active, includes ingredients to support bone health, muscle strength and joint functionality. Clinically proven to enhance mobility during aging, it is the first Nestlé product with functional food approval in China.
Another recent U.S. launch, Celltrient™ Cellular Nutrition, is a breakthrough range of nutritional solutions that work at the cellular level, formulated with cellular nutrients to support mitochondrial health and help address the drivers of age-associated cellular decline.
Personalized nutrition is further research priority for us, and we’re developing solutions targeting people with shared characteristics, e.g. age or biological sex. For example, we’ve developed a digital tool that addresses the needs of school-aged children in the Philippines facing an iron gap.
We’re also exploring more advanced levels of personalization, bringing together our research into dietary patterns, genetics, the microbiome and metabolic response.