Fighting Hidden Hunger

Improving nutrition for all

Providing nutrition for the most vulnerable

Good nutrition is essential for a good start in life. It’s the foundation of good health. But today, some two billion people suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ - also known as malnutrition - where, despite getting enough calories, the diet lacks essential vitamins and minerals. For pregnant women and infants, getting sufficient micronutrients is especially crucial. This is particularly true in the critical first 1,000 days, where it lays the foundations for a future in which children grow up capable of making a true difference in their communities thanks to a good physical and cognitive development.

Which is why for decades, DSM’s Nutrition Improvement team has been committed to achieving a brighter future for everyone through both innovative nutritional solutions and a wide variety of collaborations and partnerships.

Helping children reach their full potential

Poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five - amounting to about three million young lives lost each year worldwide. But its effects run even deeper.

Chronic malnutrition in early in life leads to stunting (being short for one’s age), which is irreversible and affects not only the body but the brain. Globally, some 155 million children suffer from this condition. It affects their ability to learn and perform at school; their earning potential and work opportunities into adulthood; and it makes them more vulnerable to various non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

As the leading science-based supplier of vitamins, carotenoids and nutritional lipids, DSM is addressing this problem by fortifying and supplementing the diets of people in the most affected areas, like Africa, Asia and Latin America. We offer a broad portfolio of nutritional solutions to address the specific nutritional requirements of a variety of the world’s most at-risk populations.

One of these solutions is micronutrient powders. These powders are designed for infants and children over six months of age and they can be mixed directly into any ready-to-eat semi-solid food to boost the micronutrient content of the diet. They come in sachets of 1 to 9 grams in weight (depending on how many children you are feeding with one sachet) and they are addressing a broad range of physical and cognitive development needs that have far-reaching consequences.

Take Malawi in East Africa. According to the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition, some 60% of its adults (4.5 million people) suffered from stunting as children. Around two-thirds of these people earn their living from manual labor, but can’t fulfill their economic and earning potential because of this physical affliction - representing an estimated $67 million loss to the economy.

Nourishing the millions

At DSM we’ve aligned our strategy specifically with five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015. Not surprisingly, nutrition is a vital precondition for achieving eight of the 17 SDGs - and our nutritional products and solutions in particular address two of the most important goals:

Ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages

Return on investment

Our partnership with the world’s largest humanitarian organization - the World Food Programme (WFP) - nourishes some 35 million people annually. And our partnership with UNICEF has reached another 2 million children in Nigeria, Meanwhile, our investment with Africa Improved Foods (AIF) in a new food manufacturing plant in Rwanda will soon have the capacity to feed two million people. Until the end of the decade, AIF plans to scale this model to Ethiopia, Kenya, and further across Sub-Saharan Africa, with the ambition of creating over 7,000 direct jobs, provide stable income to 2 million smallholder farmers and reach more than 100 million consumers with improved nutrition.

The benefits of fighting hidden hunger and malnutrition speak for themselves: preventing malnutrition delivers at least US$16 return on investment for every US$1 spent, according to the World Health Organization in 20161. For example, well-nourished children are 33% more likely to escape the vicious cycle of poverty when they grow up2.

1) Malnutrition has a high economic and health cost and a return of $16 for every $1 invested: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Global Nutrition Report 2014. Actions and Accountability to Accelerate the World's Progress on Nutrition. Washington, DC: IFPRI, 2014
2) Horton S, Steckel RH. Malnutrition. Global economic losses attributable to malnutrition 1900–2000 and projections to 2050. In: B Lomborg, ed. How much have global problems cost the earth? A scorecard from 1900 to 2050. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013

Science & Innovation

One major challenge we’ve overcome is with rice fortification. Fortified rice kernels need to look and taste like rice as they are mixed with ordinary rice. The problem is that iron-rich forms are usually brown to grey in color - which isn’t too appetizing for the consumer.

So, our bright scientists came up with a solution to add other ingredients to the kernel that allow the iron to remain white, while interacting during the cooking process to make the iron more bio-available. Thus, a win-win that meets the need of people for white rice and the nutritional need to deliver iron. In fact, many major institutions now recommend this formulation in their rice fortification guidelines.

Working in partnerships

Building innovative & impactful business models

No single organization can eliminate hidden hunger. DSM’s Malnutrition, Programs and Partnerships team works in partnership with multi-sector partners including United Nation agencies like the World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Vision International and Sight and Life. DSM’s nutrition partnerships aim to expand the scientific evidence base for targeted nutritional interventions; to increase awareness of the importance of good nutrition; to enable DSM to take a leadership role in the field of malnutrition in emerging countries through advocacy and external network, and to introduce market-based solutions for making nutritious food products accessible to those who need them most.

Everyone deserves a good start in life – and it starts with nutrition. By using our nutritional capabilities and technical expertise in food fortification, product reformulation and food safety, we have a positive contribution towards solving this global issue and continue our quest to create brighter lives for all.

Africa Improved Foods (AIF) is a public-private partnership involving DSM, the Government of Rwanda, the International Financial Corporation (IFC), CDC Group (the UK's development finance institution) and FMO (Dutch development bank). AIF is a social enterprise building resilient food systems by locally and regionally sourcing, manufacturing and selling nutritious, affordable, and accessible foods. AIF provides a scalable and sustainable solution to malnutrition via local production of highly nutritious foods. Products include mineral and vitamin-rich porridge for pregnant and lactating mothers as well as for children. Embedded in its business model is a comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty, create jobs and address stunting and malnutrition through partnerships with non-profit institutions such as the World Food Program and governments, as well as making affordable commercial products for the mass market. To date, it has reached 1.6 million consumers, contributed to over $1Billion discounted net incremental benefits to the African economy, created over 300 direct jobs, and sources from over 130,000 smallholder farmers. Within three years of operation, it has grown to $50 million in revenue. Towards 2030, AIF plans to scale this model to Ethiopia, Kenya, and further across Sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) programme, Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH), aims to drive sustainable and future-proof food systems, advocate the necessary dietary switches to improve peoples’ health within planetary boundaries, and understand and influence consumer behavior. 

Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) works to increase the growth and competitiveness of food companies in Africa. These aims are achieved by inspiring business leaders and linking highly skilled corporate volunteers from a consortium of leading companies including DSM, Cargill, General Mills, Hershey, Bühler, Ardent Mills, and J.M. Smucker Company with promising entrepreneurs and other influencers in the food ecosystem. The seven corporate partners have empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs to work toward sustainable and more resilient food value chains across the African continent. In 2020, DSM employees contributed almost 1,300 volunteer hours working with 46 African clients across 11 countries. By sharing expertise, the volunteers were able to assist local entrepreneurs in growing their businesses and supporting a supplier base of more than 85,000 farmers. In total, 57 DSM volunteers supported 59 service offerings to clients, of which 30 clients are owned or managed by women.

The SUN Business Network (SBN) - co-hosted by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and WFP - is the private-sector branch of the SUN Movement. It aims to support businesses in growing the role they play in nutrition and to support SUN countries in developing national business engagement strategies. The SBN is established in 14 countries and supports the development of new networks in 12 countries. These include almost 1,000 companies, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. We supported several SBN projects focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa. Together with the SBN global team, we built on the impact and energy of the first ever Nutrition Africa Investor Forum (NAIF) which reframed the dialogue around nutrition and supported the Global Pitch Competition 2020. As an SBN global member, we support the implementation of SBN principles, notably around workforce nutrition commitments; overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases; and the delivery of technical assistance to national SBNs and their members. We advocate for business to take a leading role in these important issues and collaborate with SBN for stronger business accountability on nutrition and for the adoption of SMART nutrition pledges by business (UN Food System Summit, Nutrition for Growth Summit).

As a global leader in nutrition, the Sight and Life Foundation uses science to change the way nutrition is delivered to people who need it most, specifically women and children. With the support of DSM, Sight and Life delivers value to the nutrition community by translating science into effective nutrition programming, building public-private partnerships, and developing viable social business models for affordable and nutritious foods.

In 2020, Sight and Life contributed to delivering nutritious food during the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda, South Africa, and India. The egg hub social business model in Malawi, making eggs available and affordable to low-income households, proved successful and sustainable by producing 3.5 million eggs annually. Sight and Life secured a Grand Challenges India Award to innovate around egg powder, also supported by Children’s Investment Fund Foundation in Ethiopia. Moreover, five companies now incorporate the OBAASIMA seal, aiming to create demand for nutritious and affordable food in Ghana. On the topic of workplace nutrition, IMPAct4Nutrition, a public-private platform, was honored with a UNICEF Global INSPIRE Award in ‘Best Multistakeholder Engagement, Sight and Life mentored young entrepreneurs to develop climate-smart nutrition and pandemic-proof innovations through Elevator Pitch Contests. Sight and Life produces many publications on key themes to DSM, including multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS), consumer insights, and take-home rations, sharing science-based evidence and expert knowledge.

The DSM-UNICEF partnership has been in place since 2013. The partnership with UNICEF and Sight and Life supports the Government of Nigeria in realizing its vision of scaling up the micronutrient powder (MNP) program nationally, reaching people suffering from malnutrition. It does that by institutionalizing MNP and leveraging resources for scaling up the MNP programme and laying strong policy foundation for having MNP in strategic national documents. The partnership has contributed to reaching over 2 million children with vital nutrients that have helped save many lives in 17 states of Nigeria. Meanwhile, the partners also collaborate to create an enabling environment for multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS), a cost-effective solution to reduce maternal anaemia and the risk of children being born underweight, too small, and too soon. The partnership expanded to India by supporting the UNICEF engagement of private-sector stakeholders as part of the government’s Social Movement on Nutrition program. The collaboration focuses on mobilizing the private sector around nutrition literacy, through the platform Impact4Nutrition (I4N), which was established in March 2019. Within 2 years of operation, the platform, which won an internal UNICEF INSPIRE award, I4N had more than 190 companies on board. Furthermore, this partnership is being expanded to address agri-food business development as one of the Global Breakthroughs identified by Generation Unlimited (GenU), a part of the United Nations Secretary General’s Youth 2030 Strategy. The key objective of this expanded cross-sectoral partnership is to embed a longer-term vision for Sustainable Food Systems (GenU SFS) in Africa and build an environment along the agri-food value chain conducive to thriving, sustainable and inclusive business. The partners will develop a business model to attract young people and prepare them to contribute to sustainable food systems in a way that creates nutrition and food business at scale.

The DSM-WFP Partnership, Improving Nutrition, Improving Lives, is stronger than ever since its inception in 2007, boosting the nutritional value of the food that the WFP distributes to vulnerable people. Today, the partnership programs reach 35 million people annually with improved nutrition. Together, DSM and WFP are working with communities around the world to make good nutrition desirable, accessible and affordable for all. Our joint focus is on scaling fortified rice consumption globally and leveraging consumer behaviour in making healthy nutrition aspirational, as WFP grows Cash & Voucher programs turning beneficiaries into consumers with a freedom of choice. So far, the partners have co-created or improved 10 nutritional products, used globally in WFP operations (like Super Cereal+) and created foundational evidence & studies to show the importance and benefits of nutrition and fortification. Equally importantly, the partnership programs create long-term systemic impact by raising awareness on the importance of nutrition while continuing to develop new scientific and technical solutions. We also work with the WFP on training and development initiatives and employee fundraising campaigns.

DSM and World Vision work together in a nutrition partnership that creates shared value for all stakeholders, including consumers. Our work involves developing ways of getting nutritionally improved foods to the most vulnerable people – through staple food fortification and bold new delivery systems for nutritionally improved food. We develop scalable inclusive business models which increase the availability and consumption of nutritious foods and improve livelihoods. We have projects in Rwanda, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil and Kenya. Our partnership with World Vision and Sight and Life, with the slogan of ‘Joining Forces for Last-Mile Nutrition’, aims to bring prosperity and good nutrition to the most vulnerable communities in the Global South. Leveraging the unique capabilities and know-how of each partner, we design and implement sustainable market-based solutions that bridge the gap between public and private efforts for improving nutrition and fostering local economic development. For example, the partners worked on solutions for maize in Rwanda, eggs in Indonesia and distribution channels in Brazil. Starting as of 2021, also on eggs in Ethiopia, improving antenatal health of women in the Philippines and aflatoxin reduction exploration Kenya.

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