Fortification for better health
Why is malnutrition still so prevalent?
2 billion People are affected by micronutrient deficiency
Despite efforts to combat malnutrition around the world, 2 billion people are still affected by micronutrient deficiency. From anaemia to pregnancy-related issues, health is damaged simply by the lack of a few micronutrients, such as iron and iodine.
Iron-deficiency anaemia, for example, affects 30% of the world’s population – mostly women and teenage girls. The Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and wellbeing, and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of halving anaemia in women by 2025, aim to tackle this.
30% Of people suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia
The good news is it’s fixable.
The WHO and leading economists have identified food fortification as one of the most cost-effective approaches to meeting people’s nutritional needs. Fortification is when small and safe amounts of essential micronutrients are added to foods that are eaten regularly.
We’ve made fortification a strategic priority
Every single day, we sell more than 164 million servings of fortified products, including seasonings, bouillons, soups, sauces, tea and ice cream.
These servings include at least 15% of the recommended daily amount for nutrients, in line with regulations. We offer fortified foods at an affordable price, develop products using good ingredients like vegetables, fruits, dairy and vegetable oils to support more diverse diets, and promote nutritious cooking – we’ve set out our latest position statement on fortification.
By 2022, we’re aiming to provide more than 200 billion servings with at least one of the five key micronutrients, vitamin A, D, iodine, iron and zinc. So far, we’ve delivered over 125 billion servings towards this commitment. We’re fortifying more and more of our children’s ice creams, for instance we’ve fortified Twister in Turkey with vitamin D and we‘ve enriched Mini Milk with extra calcium across the world.
The Access to Nutrition Index Scorecard has acknowledged our work in addressing undernutrition as a strong focus of our commercial strategy. We’ve produced a series of infographics (PDF 5.26MB)Opens in new window explaining how we’re providing essential micronutrients to help other food companies looking to fortify their products.
And to step up efforts to tackle malnutrition, we’re pushing for change across the food system. In 2020, we set ourselves even more ambitious fortification goals through our Future Foods commitments.
We’re aiming to double the number of products sold that deliver positive nutrition by 2025. This means our products will provide meaningful amount of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains, omega 3, protein, fibre, and vitamins or minerals such as zinc, iron and iodine.
Fortifying products for people who need them most
We add essential nutrients to affordable products that are consumed on a regular basis, by people who need them most. Over a third of our fortified products are sold in developing and emerging countries where micronutrient deficiency is most prevalent.
That’s how we maximise our impact on public health. But that’s not the end of the story.
We choose products that are generally accepted by regulations as suitable for fortification, and our internal guidelines for food fortification are based on those of the WHO, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
In 2020, we updated our guidance to help our people understand fortification regulations and the claims we can make – our position statement on health claims explains more. All our fortified products must comply with international and local regulations and guidelinesOpens in new window, like Codex. And when fortifying, safety is a crucial consideration in balancing the needs of both the target and non-target population.
Whenever we’re looking to make a food or refreshment acquisition, we also take into account the fortification potential of the company’s products, as well as nutrient content and other sustainability criteria.
Horlicks – an everyday essential for generations
Our acquisition of the iconic HorlicksOpens in new window brand was completed in April 2020. Horlicks has been the leader in its category in India, and a much-cherished brand in South Asian households for generations. The Horlicks range caters to the nutrition needs of different consumers, from toddlers to children and adults.
The drinks are all fortified with critical micronutrients – the much-loved Horlicks Classic, for instance, contains 23 vital nutrients. These are scientifically proven to support children’s growth and development and to help reduce micronutrient insufficiency in the diet.
Toddlers are especially known to be fussy eaters and tend to have gaps in their nutrition. This makes them vulnerable to hidden deficiencies, impacting growth. Junior Horlicks, a tailor-made nutritional drink for children between the ages of two and six, is designed to bridge these gaps.
Horlicks Women’s Plus on the other hand is a nutritional health drink designed for women. It provides 100% of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s recommendation for daily calcium, vitamin D and K2 intakes. These three key nutrients are all proven to support bone health. And Horlicks Mother’s Plus suits the specific nutritional requirements of pregnant and lactating women – it contains 25 vital nutrients and is rich in high-quality protein, providing optimal nutrition for the mother’s health and baby’s growth.
For ageing adults, there’s Horlicks Protein Plus. This contains a triple protein blend of whey, soy protein and casein, which are known to support muscle maintenance. So, through Horlicks, we can offer support across the generations. And through the Horlicks Swasthya Abhiyan community programme, we’ve raised awareness of good nutrition in 25,000 villages across India – in 2021, our ambition is to reach 30,000 villages.
Nourishing families for life with Maizena
Maizena is another of our flagship brands, with a range of fortified porridges to nourish children, and corn starch to aid cooking in Latin America. Our Maizena Instant Porridge and Milk Modifier ranges, for example, are a source of 12 micronutrients.
We’re now on a journey to support nutrition at every stage of life, from pregnancy and the early years of development, to helping kids grow, to aiding adults and seniors to protect their health.
We’ve reformulated existing products, improving the fortification of vitamin A, calcium, folic acid, iron and zinc in our porridges to strengthen immunity and the cognitive system. We’ve launched new Cremogema variants: Sleeping Time is flavoured with calming passion fruit and True Veggies are made with potatoes and carrots that kids love. And we’ve also improved our corn starch recipe to provide nine vitamins and minerals.
We’ve expanded our range of Maizena products, introducing Corn Flakes, Cremogema cereal porridge with 12 micronutrients, and a new gluten-free portfolio which won the 2019 APSAL awardOpens in new window in Argentina.
Iron and iodine for better health
Iron is one of the five essential micronutrients. If left untreated, iron-deficiency anaemia can cause serious health problems, even damaging organs like the heart. To help, we fortify our Knorr stock cubes with iron.
In Nigeria, for example, our Knorr Beef fortified bouillon cubes deliver more than 6.6 billion servings of iron, and Knorr Chicken fortified cubes provide another 2.8 billion servings, every year. And our Knorr My Green Food Steps programme encourages more people to cook with Knorr cubes and other vegetable ingredients high in iron.
A studyOpens in new window concluded that this can successfully raise awareness of anaemia and change cooking habits to help increase iron intake. We’ve also started a similar programme, called Get your iron up!Opens in new window in Kenya, where we sell almost 1.2 billion packs of iron and iodine fortified bouillons a year.
The iodine initiative
Iodine is another essential micronutrient, and iodine deficiency disorders can have a big impact on child development, especially in the first 1,000 days from conception. So it’s important to reach women of childbearing age and pregnant women with iodine fortification and education.
In Indonesia, Royco (Knorr) is the first food brand that’s championing iodine to support growth and development. We’re committed to fighting malnutrition for a better future generation with strong products, strong programmes and strong partners.
We’re fortifying bouillons, such as Royco Chicken and Beef, with iodine. From 2021, we’re adding iodine to Royco Meal Makers, to help more people make delicious, nutritious dishes. We’re educating people about the importance of iodine through our Nutrimenu ProgrammeOpens in new window. And we’re partnering with the government, as well as NGOs and community stakeholders to raise awareness.
In 2021, Royco is aiming to deliver 36 billion servings of iodised salt and to educate over 55 million people in Indonesia on the importance of balanced nutrition.
Championing regulatory change
Fortification is not just about making fortified products. It’s also important we address consumer barriers, ensure labelling transparency and encourage the removal of any regulatory hurdles.
For example, most authorities now widely recommend iodised salt instead of conventional salt to help prevent iodine insufficiencies. Many countries have also regulated the levels of iodine in salt, as well as the type of salt. However, this isn’t harmonised across the world.
Getting more iodine into our products
More than 3,000 of our (mostly Knorr) products contain a meaningful amount of iodine, and we’re increasing this all the time.
We sell products containing iodised salt in over 70 countries on all continents – except for North America.
In the US, we’ve asked the authorities to approve potassium iodate as iodised salt, the most accepted mineral source of iodine globally. We’re also calling for harmonised legislation and regulations across the world. These should clearly indicate that all salt used in the manufacture of processed foods should be iodised, preferably with the same level of iodine and type of iodised salt.
We advocate the importance of iodised salt during presentations at key scientific conferences, like the Asian Congress of Nutrition (PDF 523KB)Opens in new window, supporting the WHO’s call for actionOpens in new window on iodised salt in processed foods. We’re also working in Europe with NGOs and trade associations to remove regulatory hurdles.
A call to action
Progress on fortification across the industry – and across the world – has simply been too slow. In 2021, there is no excuse not to take action, and we know that working with partners is the best way to tackle nutrition issues.
In Vietnam, for instance, we’ve been working with the Ministry of Health and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)Opens in new window on national strategies for food fortification. Through our collaborative work, we’re supporting fortifying food products with micronutrients at reasonable prices for Vietnamese consumers. Some of our fortified Knorr products, like our meaty granules with vitamin A, even feature the government’s logo.
We’re engaging with the Iodine Global NetworkOpens in new window (IGN) on its guidance on the use of iodised salt in processed foods. And we’re also working with IGN in Indonesia, Morocco, Ghana and Senegal to improve fortification.
In 2021, we’re calling on others to join us, working with partners in industry, government and the non-profit sector to help eradicate nutrient deficiencies.
As well as offering products that are fortified and that contain nutritious ingredients, we’ve acquired new vitamin brands such as SmartyPants, OLLY, Equilibra and Liquid I.V. These are intended for people who want to top up their nutrition.