Our diet was heavy on starchy staples, but we were lucky that my mom also grew vegetables in our backyard garden. Our food was the same six days a week, but on Sundays we got to have meat. In school, I learned about the benefits of vegetables and started to understand my diet at home better. After joining Nestlé my interest in nutrition evolved into a passion to improve access to affordable and good nutrition.
My upbringing gives my work at Nestlé extra meaning and motivation. I help lead Nestlé's strategy on affordable nutrition, which brings together many teams. Access to affordable nutrition is a global challenge, with three billion people unable to access adequate food. That's why we're working to make high-quality food accessible and available and to address micronutrient malnutrition for the people who need it most, such as children and young women.
What truly motivates me most about our work on affordable nutrition is that there is still so much to do.Zanele
I'm proud of our teams making progress to bridge nutrition gaps, but it hasn't been without learnings. Here are the three major learnings from our ongoing work to make nutritious food accessible and affordable:
For nutrition solutions to work, you need to build them with local insight.
Access to nutrition is about more than the food itself. Nestlé is in 186 countries, and that means our consumers' needs can vary. Our teams are working to help meet those diverse needs across our entire value chain. We use tools like the Global Nutrition and Health Atlas along with insights on consumer behaviors. This type of knowledge helps Nestlé teams to develop solutions that are relevant and adapted to local needs and cultures. To enable wide reach and access, we design products that can be sold through small vendors, rather than formal supermarkets, in servings that low-income families can afford. When I was growing up, affordability was our #1 priority, so our family focused on price. We also prioritized essential items that we could get from our area's mobile shop, so we could avoid walking 10 kilometers to the nearest grocery store.
In places like Central and West Africa, Maggi bouillon cubes have been popularly used while cooking local dishes for generations. Since iron deficiency anemia is common in the region, we fortify Maggi bouillon cubes with iron, putting a nutrition solution in a product that already reaches a large portion of the community through its cooking-appeal. Efforts like these have helped us deliver 124.6 billion fortified servings of affordable products globally last year, which can make an impact in helping people live healthier lives.
We have also developed new foods and beverages that make protein accessible and help prevent micronutrient deficiencies. For many low-income households, affording high-quality protein is a challenge. For example, that's why our teams developed an affordable, dairy drink that's a high quality source of protein and fortified with iron. In Kenya and South Africa, we make this available with Nestlé Everyday, which we've released in smaller pouches to make it accessible for more families.
Unlock the potential of local ingredients to improve our impact on diet diversity and the planet.
Through our R&D Center in West Africa, we collaborate with suppliers, universities, and research institutions on solutions to address community needs with locally-sourced ingredients. For example, by choosing local grains like sorghum, we can make sure products are part of local diets, affordable, and sourced from local farmers to contribute to biodiversity and local economies.
Our Golden Morn cereal brand was developed this way. It contains locally-sourced whole grains and even 'upcycles' agricultural ingredients from our Milo production. It's also fortified with essential nutrients, such as vitamin A and iron. Another good example is our Nestlé Cerevita Instant Sour Porridge, which uses locally-sourced sorghum. The porridge has a higher fiber and protein content than similar products available in local markets, and it costs about 20-25% less.
We can go beyond the product and improve access to nutrition education.
Even though my parents hadn't gone to school, I was lucky that they prioritized education for me and my siblings. That education brought new ideas, and nutrition basics were part of that learning. We want to help empower people to make smart, nutritional food choices. This is why our teams at Nestlé also promote nutrition information through supporting education, in collaboration with outside partners. We partner with governments, universities, and civil society to create educational resources on nutritional deficiencies and how to address them in the daily diet.
We want to help empower people to make smart, nutritional food choices.Zanele
One initiative I'm especially proud of is the Live Strong with Iron campaign in Central and West Africa. The campaign goes beyond the fundamentals that I had as a kid in school - it raises people's awareness of the health impact of iron deficiency and provides families with tips to improve their diets. In the Philippines, our nutrition experts worked with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) to create an interactive online tool, the Tibay Calculator. The calculator offers parents valuable feedback on the nutritional value and diversity of their children's diet. It's expected to reach over 500,000 children to impact their nutrition. In Pakistan, where one out of two children suffer from iron deficiency, our teams rolled out the Iron Calculator, which leverages dietary intake data to help educate parents on what to include in their children's diet to reach the right level of iron.
What truly motivates me most about our work on affordable nutrition is that there is still so much to do - micronutrient deficiencies and hunger persist, including in many of our communities. Our presence on the ground gives us the opportunity to grow our impact and contribute to the global effort to fight hunger - but it's our local teams and partners that ultimately make a difference in vulnerable people's lives. I'm excited to be a part of the solution, and we're ready to take on the challenge.