Addressing undernutrition

Our products contain important micronutrients to help address undernutrition. We also seek to promote nutritious cooking, by working in partnership with others.

Undernutrition is a widespread problem

More than 2 billion people do not get enough vitamins and minerals, particularly in developing and emerging countries, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2015.

Micronutrient deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin A and zinc are the most widespread form of undernutrition. These are usually caused by insufficient access to enough food, as well as critical foods such as fruit, vegetables and meat. These deficiencies make people more vulnerable to disease, impair their mental development and decrease their ability to earn a living.

We can play a role in tackling undernutrition. In developing and emerging markets, our aim is to offer fortified foods at an affordable price and to promote nutritious cooking. In order to maximise our impact, we often work in partnerships with other organisations.

The strength of fortification

About 15% of our total food and beverage sales by volume - principally our spreads and bouillons - already contributes to people’s recommended daily intake of five key micronutrients: iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and iron. This equates to more than 144 billion servings,1 more than one-third of which is sold in developing and emerging countries. In 2015, we sold over 19 billion servings of Annapurna iodised salt in India alone.

We have been fortifying our Rama/Blue Band margarines with vitamins A and D since the 1940s. Roughly 70% of people in the US have intakes below the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. Deficiencies are also prevalent in Canada, Australia and Europe, as well as in developing and emerging countries across the Middle East and Asia. Public health organisations and governments in various countries are therefore reconsidering the requirements for vitamin D.

In select countries, we also fortify some of our spreads with vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and niacin. In Latin America, our Maizena porridges are fortified with iron, zinc and vitamins A, B1, B3, B6, B12, C and folic acid. AdeS, our soy-based brand in Latin America, is also fortified with vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, calcium and zinc.

Knorr leads the way in tackling malnutrition

In 2015, we launched our new Knorr ‘Fork, Farm, Fortune’ social mission based on three pillars:

  1. ‘Fork’ – Knorr is championing nutritious cooking through a behaviour change ‘Green Food Steps’ programme and the introduction of iron-fortified cubes.
  2. ‘Farm’ – Knorr partners with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to work with smallholder farmers to improve farming practices and ensure that their cassava crops become part of a sustainable supply chain.
  3. ‘Fortune’ – Knorr will improve the livelihoods of local women by training them to become entrepreneurs and ambassadors for nutrition – an approach pioneered by Unilever’s Shakti programme in India. In Nigeria, the programme is called ‘Gbemiga’ – meaning ‘lift me up’ – and Knorr is partnering with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the Growing Business Foundation and the Society for Family Health.

“2 billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, with women in central and West Africa being particularly exposed,” explains Cathryn Sleight, Executive Vice President, Savoury. “Through Knorr’s new social mission and by championing nutritious cooking, we aim to increase the nutritional value of people’s diets and improve the livelihoods of women and farmers.”

Nigeria is the pilot country for this programme. It is Africa’s most populous country and almost one in two women of reproductive age and 72% of children under five suffer from anaemia. This can result in tiredness, dizziness and a lack of concentration. 50% of cases are usually caused by a lack of iron in the body, which is often diet-related.

Taking Green Food Steps to improve nutrition

Our ‘Green Food Steps’ programme will empower thousands of mothers and daughters across Nigeria to improve their nutrition, by making nutritious cooking affordable, simple and desirable.

We will initially target 50,000 mothers and daughters in Ijebu Ode and Amaigbo, to help them understand the importance of an iron-rich diet. We will encourage them to incorporate leafy green vegetables and crumble Knorr’s iron-fortified bouillon cubes into popular dishes. If successful we plan to further roll out the programme.

To provide engaging role models, award-winning actress and singer Omotola Jalade Ekeinde and her teenage daughter are supporting the programme. Nigerian celebrity singer Yemi Alade has recorded a ‘Follow in my Green Food Steps’ song with its own dance steps to make the three simple steps in cooking – toss, stir and crumble – more memorable.

We are also collaborating with the University of Ibadan to assess the impact of the programme.

Making a difference on vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A is essential for good eyesight, keeping skin healthy and boosting the body’s ability to fight infection. However, millions of people around the world suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Vietnam is particularly affected. So we are working with the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the Ministry of Health on the National Strategies for Food Fortification project. This is sponsored by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

In 2013, we launched our first Knorr fortified seasoning granule, fortified with vitamin A. Supported by the country’s Women’s Association, we are running a national awareness campaign. We are also running a campaign in rural areas to help people understand the importance of micronutrients in their daily diet.

Knorr’s pioneering support for the World Food Programme

Knorr was the first brand ever to support the United Nations Zero Hunger Challenge. This initiative encourages action to eliminate hunger in our lifetime. Unilever CEO Paul Polman signed a petition at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2014, declaring Unilever’s commitment to work towards this ambition.

On World Food Day in 2014 and 2015, Knorr partnered with the UN’s World Food Programme2 (WFP) to encourage people to pledge support for building a world with zero hunger by sharing a nutritious meal with someone in need. As a result, we have provided 2 million school meals and, since 2007, more than $26 million of support to the UN’s WFP.

In 2014, Knorr started supporting WFP’s Home Grown School Meals Programme. This helps smallholder farmers develop better practices for growing and harvesting crops. These are then provided to local schools, where members of the community turn them into meals – often the children’s only nourishing meal of the day. This provides a powerful incentive for the millions of children who don’t attend lessons regularly to go to school.

Gaining by working together

To be effective in addressing undernutrition, society needs partnerships between government, non-governmental organisations and the food industry.

For example, in 2013, GAIN, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), Ideo, and Unilever, with sponsorship from Aqua for All, established a pilot business called SmartLife in Kenya.

SmartLife delivers safe, affordable drinking water alongside hygiene products to low-income families. The service has now expanded to selling nutrition products. These include Blue Band margarine (which is fortified with vitamins), vitamin powders that can be sprinkled onto food and in water (from DSM), and a fortified porridge. Our next steps are to prove the business model, scale up potential and extend the portfolio of hygiene and nutrition products on offer.

The impact of economically empowering women has a transforming effect on lifting families out of poverty. In our Shakti rural sales operation, for example, earnings usually double household incomes. For many, this means they can educate their children.

We are also developing programmes to enhance the lives of our women farmers and their families. One example is our work with GAIN to educate women on nutrition. We started the first trials of this programme in early 2015 with our gherkin farmers in India.

AIM: Reducing malnutrition in Africa

The objective of the Amsterdam Initiative against Malnutrition (AIM) is to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity in Africa for 100 million low-income people. The programme started in 2010 and is a partnership between the Dutch government, GAIN, Unilever, AkzoNobel, DSM, Wageningen University and ICCO (the Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation).

In 2013, we were awarded a grant from the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV), which will last until 2018. This is being used to develop the market for nutritious food products.

Scaling up nutrition

Our CEO Paul Polman was asked by the UN to sit on the Lead Group of Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN). This global movement unites 55 countries with donors, civil society, UN partners and business in a collective effort to improve nutrition within a generation. A key focus of the SUN movement and the country programmes is to reach teenagers, pregnant women, mothers and young infants.

As part of the G8’s Nutrition for Growth Summit in 2013, we signed up to the SUN Business Network to improve nutrition for our workforces and maternal health by 2016. This will benefit millions of people around the world. The SUN Business Network continues to act as a catalyst for mobilising impactful commitments from business in support of SUN countries.

In March 2015, we hosted the ‘Scaling Up Dutch Efforts on Global Nutrition’. This was organised by the Netherlands Working Group on Nutrition, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Food and Knowledge Business Platform.

The scale of these programmes shows that fortification can be most effective when we work together.

1 Based on our standard servings.

2 WFP does not endorse any products or services.

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