Micronutrients are vital for growth and development but deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals or inadequate dietary intake remain a challenge. A lack of micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine, can lead to childhood malnutrition, which is a leading cause of death in children below the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa.
One way the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends addressing this issue is by focusing on the fortification of staple foods with vitamins and minerals.
We are committed to addressing micronutrient deficiencies, with a special focus on children and women of childbearing age, by using information from national and international authorities like the WHO, and are continuing our scientific research on the impact of our products on people’s diets. We are doing this in two ways, through product fortification and bio-fortification.
Central and West Africa has a high prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies, especially among children and women of childbearing age. To address this urgent public health issue, we look at fortifying our products with micronutrients that would otherwise be missing from people’s diets.
In 2016, we delivered 64 billion servings of fortified food and beverages in Central and West Africa. Maggibouillons, Nido milk, Milo beverages, Golden Morn breakfast cereals, Cerelac infant cereals and Ideal milky choco, milky tea and milky coffee drinks are just a few of the popular Nestlé products that are fortified in the region.
Through our popularly positioned products (PPPs), we ensure that lower-income consumers, the sector most vulnerable to deficiencies, have access to high-quality foods and beverages that provide nutritional value. Usually, these products come in single serves and can be bought by the unit. In Central and West Africa, PPPs represent 67% of our total sales.
We are also using conventionally bred crops that are rich in micronutrients, and are crossing-breeding them with high-yield varieties to produce high-yielding, nutritious crops. For example, bio-fortified pro vitamin A cassava, iron and zinc-rich millet and pro vitamin A maize are being grown in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.
The programme is part of the work led by Nestlé R&D Abidjan, which is collaborating with national and international research institutions such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
We are also working with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and non-governmental organisation Harvest Plus, on promoting the use of bio-fortified crops among farmers to help boost the production and extend access to such foods, generate demand and ensure bio-fortification is scaled up in the country.
In Côte d’Ivoire, we are currently working on fortifying cassava.
We believe that making bio-fortified materials more widely available will not only improve the nutritional content of our products, but also have a positive impact on the diets of local communities.