Nestlé acquires rights to technology to fight iron deficiency


Dive Brief:

  • Nestlé has purchased the rights to new technology said to work on iron deficiency without harming the taste of foods or beverages. According to Nutra Ingredients, Ferri Pro is a protein-iron complex that uses food-grade materials to fortify certain foods.

  • The technology was developed by researchers at the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence at New Zealand’s Massey University, Nutra Ingredients reported. “We developed the technology to help to address the world’s most important nutritional deficiency, as over 1.6 billion people are suffering from iron deficiency anemia,” said Harjinder Singh, director of the Riddet Institute and research team leader.

  • FoodBev reported more than 80% of Nestlé products are fortified with either vitamins A and C, iron or zinc, and that the Swiss company typically fortifies items including condiments, noodles, cereals and children’s milks. Nestlé said acquiring Ferri Pro will help the company make progress in its efforts to reach millions of children and families.

Dive Insight:

This technology acquisition is likely to assist Nestlé in further tackling the global problem of micronutrient deficiency and also raises the possibility that the world’s largest food and beverage company might be coming out with more fortified products in the near future.

Nutri Ingredients noted that while Nestlé executives didn’t discuss any potential applications it had in mind for Ferri Pro, the company also didn’t rule out using it to fortify additional foods and beverages within its large brand portfolio. So Nestlé might bring such newly fortified products to the market — or other companies might be paying the Swiss company for the right to use Ferri Pro in their own product manufacturing.

Currently, iron deficiency can be treated with the use of powdered ingredients such as lactoferrin supplements derived from whey, or a stick designed for pregnant or nursing women that melts in the mouth. Commonly iron-fortified products include cereal, infant formula and refined grains.

Iron deficiency is a major global problem. Almost a quarter of the world’s population suffers from anemia, according to the World Health Organization. Women and children are at special risk for the problem, with 47.4% of preschool aged children with deficiencies. More pregnant women have severe iron deficiencies — 41.8% globally — but 30.2% of women who aren’t pregnant don’t get enough of the mineral. If iron deficiency isn’t treated, serious heart and growth problems can result, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The U.S. is not exempt from this problem. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on nutrition, some of the more common nutrient deficiencies among Americans include iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin D.

Technology like Ferri Pro can bring dividends and improve general health worldwide. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, investing $1.2 billion in micronutrient fortification annually would generate annual benefits of $15.3 billion, with a benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 13 to 1.

This could bring a big brand advantage for Nestlé and any other companies that decide to use technology like Ferri Pro. Production costs may increase, but it could be worth the extra expense for both the fortification labeling claim advantage and to show consumers these manufacturers care about global public health.

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