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Multinationals committed to nutritional literacy in Asia: Report

By Kacey Culliney , 16-Apr-2012

Educating Asian communities about health and nutrition decisions is a key concern of multinationals, according to the industry association Food Industry Asia.

The inaugural report, compiled by the Singapore-based trade group, highlighted that working to empower consumers to make informed decisions on their health and nutrition through local ground-work, is a strong value upheld by its members who work across Asia Pacific.

There are many on-going contributions to community health and wellness programmes throughout one of the fastest-growing and complex global regions, Bev Postma, executive director of FIA, said.

Governments are concerned with ensuring consumers have the nutritional literacy they need to make sensible consumption choices, as well as food resources and security to survive, and so this is a key concern of FIA members, Postma told FoodNavigator-Asia.

Members are working to address this challenge via programmes that“raise nutritional literacy”and underpin consumer choice with science-based information, she said.

“We have not seen one sector emerge as a leader in the health and nutrition space. That said, FIA’s members are food and beverage manufacturers and retailers who cover a wide spectrum of product categories,” she noted.

Multinational heavy-weights

FIA is comprised heavily of multinationals, companies Postma described as “founding members”,including Cargill, FrieslandCampina, Kraft Foods, Symrise, Unilever and Nestlé, to name a few.

However, she noted that the association is not exclusive for larger manufacturers as its “objective is to be relevant and valuable to the whole of the food industry in Asia.”

She said that FIA is working “very closely with national industry associations in each market and this has become our primary route for engaging with SMEs and local food companies on issues of mutual interest.”

The association does coordinate closely at ground level with local food industry associations for its nutrition information education programmes, she added, “where FIA serves as a conduit for best practice and helps to link global commitments at the local level.”

Investing in health and nutrition issues

The manufacturers draw on international best practice and proven solutions, while “creating Asia-centric programmes specifically tailored to the region’s unique challenges,” Postma said.

The association supports and encourages reformulation work, new product development (NPD) investment, responsible advertising as well as ensuring clear and fact-based nutritional information is readily available to consumers, she said.

The report [available here] details the work of FrieslandCampina in Indonesia supporting 25 community-based early childhood development centres. The Dutch dairy firm supplies daily milk to the children in these centres as well as health and nutrition training to the teachers.  

It also notes Kellogg’s work in South Korea educating children about the importance of a healthy breakfast and providing free cereal at selected schools as part of its School Breakfast Club programme. The cereal giant is now focused on the Indian market and is teaming up with academic and research institutions to better understand and quantify breakfast habits across the country.

Cargill is also involved in the Indian market, committing US$3m to support the United Nations World Food Program’s (WFP) Madhya Pradesh Fast Track Nutrition programme, dedicated to improving child nutrition and infant health across the country.

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