By Henri-Pierre Lenoble
Global Manager – Nestlé for Healthier Kids
Encouraging kids to eat more veggies and fruits, ensuring that their meals are as nutritious as possible and that they include a greater variety of protein sources: those ideas run at the core of Nestlé for Healthier Kids, a group-wide initiative aimed squarely at tackling malnutrition.
With Nestlé for Healthier Kids, we aim to help parents the world over raise healthier kids – our goal is to help 50 million children by 2030 through product innovation and practical tips.
Our flagship group-wide initiative comes as malnutrition continues to gain in prevalence worldwide. Undernutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies, are still leading risk factors for illness and infant mortality in many emerging countries. Overweight and obesity continue to gain ground, with more than 340 million children and teenagers affected worldwide, according to the World Health Organization – an alarming number considering that overweight increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Research our best ally
Tackling malnutrition is a complex undertaking, and one that requires a holistic approach that stretches beyond nutrition. While eating patterns are clearly critical, there is a myriad of other factors at play: exercising and behavioral habits, but also genetics, and even socio-economic factors can come into the equation.
At Nestlé, we focus on improving dietary habits through product innovation and practical tips on nutrition, leveraging our robust expertise in that field. We invest extensively in research to generate unique insights into the dietary and lifestyle habits of children in different parts of the world – a process we refer to as “nutritional landscaping”. Our findings highlight a wide range of nutritional deficiencies and reveal that those can differ greatly by geography – a function of different eating habits.
Patchwork of eating patterns
In the US, for instance, we found that 16% of children are in the habit of skipping lunch, depriving them of the precious vitamins and minerals critical to their healthy physical and cognitive development; in China, children only consume 16% of the recommended amount of dairy; in Russia, 30% of children do not eat vegetables on a daily basis.
Nutritional deficiencies can be country-specific – but they can also transcend national borders. For instance, an overwhelming majority of Brazilian, Filipino, Russian and Chinese children consume too little calcium. Between 70 and 80% of US and Mexican children exceed saturated fat limits, while the figure falls between 20 and 40% for Australian and Chinese children. And the list goes on.
Filling in the nutritional gaps
It’s against that backdrop that Gerber (US) and NaturNes (Europe) are incorporating high-value organic ingredients such as vegetables and fiber-rich grains into their baby-food product range. It’s also what drove Milo and Nesquik to launch recipes containing less sugar, and led Maggi to launch a new range of instant noodles that are baked, not fried, to reduce fat content.
These launches are just a few examples. They are part a broader group-wide reformulation effort that is well underway, as we continue to remove sugar, salt and fat content from our products, while adding vegetables and fiber content to our recipes.
By the end of 2019, we had added 2.76 billion portions of vegetables and 403 million portions of fiber-rich grains, pulses, nuts and seeds versus the baseline of 2016. We delivered 185.4 billion servings of fortified foods and beverages incorporating at least one of the Big 4 micronutrients (iron, iodine, vitamin A and zinc) in 64 countries with higher vulnerability to micronutrient malnutrition in 2019.
Last year has also seen us continue to expand the share of organic and natural products in our portfolio, and move more squarely into the plant-based space, as a growing body of research continues to point to the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
As we progress into 2020, we will continue to build on this strong momentum, bringing to market products that are natural, organic, and just healthier – in line with our purpose to unlock the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone, today and for generations to come.
Learn more about our Nestlé for Healthier Kids initiative