Providing essential micronutrients
Through our brands, we’re helping people get the nutrients they need.
Addressing malnutrition globally
In September 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its Essential Nutrition Actions report on the state of nutrition across the world. This says that despite efforts to combat malnutrition, 2 billion people are still affected by micronutrient deficiency globally. It concludes that progress to improve nutrition among women, infants and children has fallen behind the pace needed to meet established global targets. And it recommends a number of interventions to address nutrition, including fortification.
Fortification is when small and safe amounts of essential micronutrients are added to staple foods and condiments. Leading economists have identified food fortification as one of the most cost-effective approaches to meet the nutritional needs of populations throughout the world.
Our ambition: 200 billion fortified servings
The Access to Nutrition Index Scorecard has acknowledged our work in addressing undernutrition as a strong focus within our commercial strategy. We offer fortified foods at an affordable price, develop products using nutritious ingredients like vegetables, fruit, dairy and vegetable oils, and promote nutritious cooking. We’ve produced a series of infographics (PDF | 6MB) explaining how we’re providing essential micronutrients.
We will 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 provided nearly 60 billion servings.
We’ve achieved this through dietary diversification (providing products with nutrient-rich ingredients), as well as the use of iodised salt instead of regular salt. We add essential nutrients to products that are consumed on a regular basis. In fact, we sell more than 164 million servings of fortified products every day, including seasonings, bouillons, soups and Mealmakers. These servings provide at least 15% of the recommended daily amount for nutrients.
Through iron fortification, we’re also helping to address iron deficiency (anaemia), which affects 30% of the world’s population – mostly women and teenage girls. This will help meet Sustainable Development Goal 3 ‘ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages’ and the WHO target of halving anaemia in women by 2025. And we’re accelerating our wider efforts in providing micronutrients.
Our products provide essential micronutrients
The nutritious ingredients in our products provide micronutrients that people need as part of a balanced diet. Vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkins, lentils and onions are hero ingredients in many Knorr products. And each year, we provide more than 100 billion servings of vegetables through these options.
Our Knorr soups, for example, including our dried soups, use vegetables as core ingredients. Some people believe that dried food isn’t real food. However, a study based on EU data concludes that the nutritional value of dry vegetable soups is comparable to homemade soups from fresh vegetables. Our Knorr dried vegetable soups deliver up to 290 g of vegetables per serving. By harvesting vegetables at their peak and drying them gently, we’re able to lock in their nutrient goodness.
In Denmark, Knorr ran a campaign in 2019 to raise awareness of the benefits of dried vegetables. We began with a chef demonstration for influencers, journalists and bloggers showing how natural the drying process is. Coverage of the event was extremely positive and managed to reach an unprecedented 4.3 million people.
Across the world, Knorr displays on-pack shopping lists and tips to make it even easier for people to start cooking with nutritious ingredients. Our country websites feature delicious Knorr recipes that encourage people to eat more plant-based foods, helping them to discover new flavours and diversify their diet towards more sustainable alternatives.
Knorr Meal Kits – Nudging for Good
The Dutch eat fewer vegetables than the average European, and while the government recommends a daily intake of 250 g, the average intake is only 131 g. So, we wanted to find a way to encourage people in the Netherlands to eat more vegetables.
Our Knorr Meal Kits encourage consumers to eat more vegetables and try new ingredients, including flexitarian and vegetarian alternatives. Knorr has redesigned 40 Meal Kits to allow Dutch consumers to be able to eat at least 200 g of vegetables per portion (an increase of 140 g). With 23 million packs sold in 2019 and each pack containing two to three portions, this has had an impact on around 70 million meals in the Netherlands.
“We’ve redesigned our packs to give more prominence to a reminder to eat vegetables and to veggie recipe cooking instructions,” explains Bianca van Overveld, Global Marketing Leader for Knorr Meal Kits. “This is then reinforced on our website and through social media, online search results, in-store activations and advertising. We were delighted to be named a finalist in the AIM Brands Nudging For Good 2019 Awards for our efforts.”
Currently, 62% of all Knorr Meal Kits meet our 5 g salt target, and 36% comply with our Highest Nutrition Standards. These figures will increase over the next two years, thanks to reformulation programmes that we already have in place.
This work contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Making our products even more nutritious
We take into account nutrient content, fortification potential and other sustainability criteria when making Foods & Refreshment acquisitions. For example, we recently acquired the Health Food Drinks portfolio of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in India, Bangladesh and 20 other predominantly Asian markets. The Health Food Drinks portfolio is all fortified and affordable for people on low incomes, and includes the well-known Horlicks brand.
Horlicks – an everyday essential for generations
We announced our intention to acquire the iconic Horlicks brand in 2018 – and this transaction was completed in April 2020. Horlicks has been the leader in its category in India, and an everyday staple in South Asian households for generations. Horlicks Classic contains nine nutrients (vitamin B6, B12, C, D, copper, folic acid, iron, selenium and zinc), which are scientifically proven to support immunity. It’s also fortified with 21 micronutrients.
The rest of the range in India is fortified with one or more micronutrients to address needs of specific populations. Women’s Horlicks, for example, contains calcium for strong bones, vitamin D for calcium absorption, and vitamin K2 to bind calcium to bones. Mother’s Horlicks contains DHA and choline for a baby’s brain development, protein for healthy birth rates and 25 vital nutrients to improve breast milk quality. And our Junior Horlicks supports growth for children of different ages.
A variety of Horlicks drinks also assist fitness demands. For example, Horlicks Protein Plus helps to build and maintain muscle mass, and Horlicks Cardia+ helps reduce RLP cholesterol, insulin and blood glucose spikes.
“Many of our Horlicks products are compliant with our Highest Nutrition Standards, as well as India’s Pledge on marketing to children,” says Sudhir Sitapati, our Executive Director & VP of Foods & Refreshment in South Asia. “These are small steps towards the future of nutrition personalisation.”
This work contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
We maximise our impact on public health by choosing popular, affordable products to fortify with micronutrients, which are consumed by the people who need them most. Over one-third of our fortified products are sold in developing and emerging countries where micronutrient deficiency is most prevalent.
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 Food and Agriculture Organization. All our fortified products must comply with international and local regulations and guidelines, like CODEX. And when fortifying, safety is a crucial consideration for both the target and non-target population. We aim to deliver at least 15% of the recommended dietary amount per serving when we fortify, in line with regulations.
Get your iron up!
One in four Kenyan females suffer from iron deficiency. Those most vulnerable are adolescent girls, women of reproductive age and pregnant women. Evidence shows that when malnourished adolescent girls get pregnant, they’re also more likely to give birth to malnourished children.
We fortify our Royco (Knorr) cubes with iron in Kenya. Here, Royco is popular and affordable – two cubes are sold for only five cents – so it’s a good way to increase iron intakes in consumers diets.
To encourage more people to cook with Royco cubes and other veggie ingredients high in iron, we started the Get your iron up! programme across the country. We took learnings from the success of a similar programme with Knorr in Nigeria called My Green Food Steps. A study concluded that this branded behaviour-change programme can increase awareness of anaemia and change cooking habits to help increase the intake of iron.
In 2019, we directly reached 280,000 households in Kenya with Royco cube samples and education on iron deficiency. This included tips on how to spot symptoms, identify those at risk and simple ways to incorporate iron into the diet. We also leveraged TV, radio and social media to reach more people. The campaign specifically contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 2.2, to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons.
“In 2020, we plan to directly reach at least 500,000 households, which is 10% of the Kenyan population,” explains Sylvia Kahoro, Marketing Lead for Foods & Refreshment, Unilever East Africa. “We will expand the programme into Uganda, where iron deficiency is also a challenge.”
This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals
Iodised salt can make a big difference
To deliver our fortification commitment, it’s important we address consumer barriers, ensure labelling transparency and encourage the removal of regulatory hurdles where they exist.
Iodine, for example, is one of the five essential micronutrients. In 50% of all countries with available data, pregnant women show an inadequate iodine intake. It’s estimated that up to 50% of newborns in Europe are exposed to iodine deficiency. And people with chronic iodine deficiency may have a general loss of 13.5 IQ points compared to non-iodine deficient people.
We replace salt with iodised salt in products across Europe, as well as over 50 countries in Africa, South America, Asia and Australia. Approximately 23% of our total savoury products are already made with iodised salt and we’re increasing this further.
Food-grade salt fortified with iodine can be used in food products in most countries, and most authorities now widely recommend this instead of conventional salt to help prevent iodine insufficiencies. Many countries have regulated the levels of iodine in salt, as well as the type of salt. However, this isn’t harmonised across the world.
We’re calling for legislation and regulations that 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. In the US, for example, we’ve asked the authorities to approve potassium iodate as iodised salt, the most accepted mineral source of iodine globally. We’ve also advocated for iodised salt during presentations at key scientific conferences, like the Asian Conference on Nutrition (PDF | 524KB), supporting the WHO’s call for action on iodised salt in processed foods.
We can make an even bigger difference than we do today to combat malnutrition. Iodine deficiency affects too many people, and we will help to eradicate it by making all salt in our savoury products iodised salt, wherever possible.Angelika de Bree, our Global Nutrition Director, Foods & Refreshment