Fortification to drive positive nutrition
Helping people get the nutrients they need from high-quality, delicious products they love, and brands they trust.
More than 800 million people go to bed hungry1
In a world struggling with obesity, it’s alarming that micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to impact over 2 billion people, across developed, as well as developing countries.2 Fifty-two million children are acutely malnourished, and 155 million (23%) of under-fives are stunted.3 Micronutrient deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin A and zinc are the most widespread forms of undernutrition. This can make people more vulnerable to disease, impair their growth and mental development, decrease their ability to earn a living, and even increase the risk of early death for young children.4
We use nutritious ingredients in our products. We also fortify popular, affordable and accessible products with micronutrients in countries where malnutrition is prevalent. Evaluating fortification using our Eco Design tool, we follow international and local regulations and guidelines, from organisations such as CODEX, WHO and FAO. About 13% of our total food and beverage sales (by volume) contribute to people’s recommended daily intake of iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and iron. This is equivalent to 138 billion servings.5
Where possible, we build in fortification to our products. For example, most of our spreads globally are fortified with vitamin A and D, and in some cases vitamin B. We offer iron-fortified cubes in Nigeria, vitamin A-enriched seasoning in Vietnam, and mineral (zinc, iron) and vitamin (A, B1, B3, B6, B11, B12, C) fortified corn starch in Latin America.
Over one-third of our fortified products are sold in developing and emerging countries where malnutrition is most prevalent. We aim to offer fortified foods at an affordable price to bring them within the reach of as many people as possible. However, producing and distributing low-cost products and getting an economically sustainable margin is challenging. Our goal is to reach more people, in more places, in a way that is economically viable. We are committed to stepping up activities of our most popular products to address undernutrition, as this is where we can make the biggest difference through our global scale.
India, for example, is home to one-quarter of the world’s undernourished people. Women of lower social status are most at risk which can lead to them giving birth to underweight babies. Here, we fortify products like iodised salt, which is widely available and affordable. In 2017, we sold more than 17 billion servings of our Annapurna/Captain Cook iodised salt in India. And in early 2018, we introduced Annapurna Super Atta, which is fortified with iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12.
Even farmers need better diets
We help farmers to learn about nutritious diets. This not only helps them to stay healthy and productive at work, maintaining their income, but also helps to secure the supply of ingredients for our products.
How our Seeds of Prosperity partnership is improving farmers’ diets
Through the Seeds of Prosperity programme, Unilever, GAIN and IDH are working through commodity supply chains to improve tea workers’ and farmers’ diets and hygiene practices. Biju Mushahary, Project Manager at GAIN, explains how the programme is benefiting women in India.
“When asked about their favourite time of the day, most of the women farmers from within the tea community refer to breakfast or dinner with their family members. Food for these women is not only an occasion to satisfy their physiological needs, but also an occasion to hear stories from their children, husband or family members.
"However, knowledge on consuming a diverse diet is limited, and the concept of eating different food groups is not well understood. Therefore, despite having regular incomes, they mostly consume monotonous diets lacking in essential nutrients, and remain nutritionally vulnerable.
"A major health problem can pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of smallholders and workers. The simple act of eating a diverse diet can help them maintain good health. As part of our programme, individuals (mostly women) from within the tea community are selected as Master Trainers. They are trained on diverse diet and hygiene matters, and taught to teach others.”
The project was first implemented by Solidaridad as a pilot in Tamil Nadu at the beginning of 2016. Following its promising results, the project is now being scaled up there, and piloted in Assam. By mid-2018, it will reach 55,000 smallholder farmers' and workers' households.”
Encouraging balanced eating
We know that improving nutrition is best triggered by first raising awareness about the need for balanced diets. At the same time, it’s important to understand people’s diets and cooking habits, as these vary from country to country.
Partnering with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), we have created a global Nutrition Intervention Programme to improve the health and nutrition of 2.5 million people in rural communities. The programme aims to reach smallholder farmers and their families. It has a specific focus on female farmers, pregnant women and young children. In addition to promoting the importance of nutritious foods and a diverse diet, they will be given the means to grow their own kitchen gardens.
In 2017, we developed a pilot in India with the Society for Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA) in Delhi and Haridwar. We did this as part of our 'Prabhat' programme, which contributes to the development of local communities around our key sites in India. The pilot taught 119 girls and women about balanced diets and healthy cooking. It covered nutrition during pregnancy and at every life stage, and how to select and purchase food and test for adulteration.
Feedback about the pilot was extremely positive, with 595 participants becoming ambassadors of change. We are now scaling up the programme and so far, 1,000 women have been trained. In addition, employees from our factory in Goa taught children through our new school pilot. Within two weeks, the team had already conducted sessions in ten government schools, teaching 1,764 schoolchildren. The feedback from the school authorities, students and the factory team has been very promising, and the next phase of the programme will target teenage boys and men.
"I have learnt a lot of good practices to be followed while cooking food. My mother has diabetes, so I now know what should be included in her meal.” Vineeta from Delhi
How Knorr is helping people eat more diverse diets
In 1838, Carl Heinrich Knorr experimented with food-drying techniques to preserve and guarantee quality, flavour and freshness. Today, Knorr continues his legacy. It is Unilever’s largest brand and one of the world’s largest food brands. Knorr continues to use its scale to make a positive impact.
- Nutritious cooking – Knorr’s Green Food Steps behaviour-change programme inspires the cooks of today (mothers) and tomorrow (teenage girls) to cook with more nutritious ingredients. The programme was piloted in Nigeria and, through the impact evaluation carried out in partnership with Ibadan University, proved to have a positive effect on the ingredients used in commonly consumed meals. The programme has now reached over 220,000 people in Nigeria, has been piloted in Indonesia – reaching over 15,000 people - and is being introduced in select communities in Africa and South East Asia.
- Fortified Bouillon Cubes – In 2016, Knorr put iron and iodine-fortified cubes on the shelf in Nigeria, with the ambition to help increase iron intake in a country with high prevalence of iron deficiency. Further countries are being scoped for roll-out of the iron-fortified products.
- ‘Gbemiga’ (‘lift me up’) – Knorr trains local women in Nigeria to become entrepreneurs and ambassadors for nutrition, in partnership with GAIN, the Growing Business Foundation and Society for Family Health. The women sell nutritious products, improving their living standards, and reinforcing dietary diversity to prevent iron deficiency.
- Pioneering support for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) – Since 2007, Unilever has partnered with the WFP donating over $32 million towards its initiatives. In 2014, Knorr became the first brand to support its Zero Hunger Challenge. Since then, Knorr has partnered with WFP on World Food Day to encourage people to pledge their support for a local food bank or charity.
- School meals – Between 2014 and 2017, Knorr donated 3 million nutritious school meals through the WFP, providing a powerful incentive for children to attend lessons. Knorr also works with country programmes. For example, Knorr is improving nutrition for over 700,000 undernourished children under five in the Philippines, with WFP and Kabisig ng Kalahi, using dishes aligned with our Highest Nutritional Standards.
- #ShareAMeal – For every share or retweet of Knorr’s Facebook post on World Food Day 2017, Knorr donated the equivalent of one meal to WFP’s cash and vouchers programmes in the Philippines and Kenya – helping people buy food and cook 1 million meals for their families, with freedom and dignity.
Knorr will continue to work with partners to make a positive impact on consumer health through dietary diversity.
Maximising our impact
We know we can maximise our impact by working with others. We are a Council member of Grow Africa and Grow Asia. In addition, in 2017, Amanda Sourry, our former Category President for Foods, was invited to join the SUN Business Network Advisory Group. This works to end malnutrition in all its forms. And we are active in the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, Nutrition for Growth and the EAT Forum, which all aim to tackle malnutrition.
We are taking action at country level. For example:
- In Vietnam, we work with the National Institute of Nutrition and Ministry of Health on the National Strategies for Food Fortification project, sponsored by GAIN. We focus on vitamin A deficiency and since 2013 have offered Knorr fortified seasoning granules with added vitamin A. In 2017, we sold 4 billion servings of our vitamin A fortified seasonings globally.
- In Nigeria, we sold approximately 7 billion servings of our Knorr/Royco iron-fortified bouillon cubes in 2017. And we began a study with Obafemi Awolowo University to prove iron bioavailability from fortified Knorr cubes.
- In the Netherlands, the contribution of margarine to vitamin D intakes was published6 in 2017. Media coverage raised awareness, reaching 220,000 people.
- In Kenya, our Social Mission Hygiene and Nutrition Director is a member of the Lancet Commission on the future of health in sub-Saharan Africa.
We are accelerating our fortification efforts, and by 2022 will provide more than 200 billion servings with at least one of the five key micronutrients. We will particularly focus on addressing iron-deficiency anaemia, with anaemia affecting 30% of the world’s population – mostly women and teenage girls. And by training entrepreneurs, we will ensure our products reach remote communities.
We fund programmes that raise awareness of the benefits of consuming fortified foods; exclusive breastfeeding; safe, timely and adequate complementary feeding and dietary supplementation for infants and young children; and the benefits of a diverse diet.
As a result of these initiatives, we can make a difference in improving nutrition and health. We can also increase productivity. The costs of undernutrition in terms of lost national productivity are significant, with between 3% and 16% of GDP lost annually in Africa and Asia. The good news is we know that the economic returns from investing in nutrition are high – with £16 generated for every pound invested. Boosting nutrition can also boost growth.
2 Global Nutrition Report 2015
5 Based on our standard servings.
6 Our study was the first to report that following dietary guidelines alone doesn’t help meet recommended intakes. It recommended increasing levels of vitamin D in margarine and milk. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.