Part of the Vitafoods mission is the ambition to ‘shape the food industry for optimal health, through science and innovation,’ and to bring ‘more health to more people.’ We believe that both environmental and socio-economic sustainability is crucial to the development of the wider health and nutrition industry. As part of its role to drive the industry forward and help foster meaningful connections, the Vitafoods group is pleased to announce its partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), working closely with their SUN Business Network (SBN).
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition was launched by the United Nations in 2002 with a goal to tackle human suffering caused by malnutrition—primarily working with governments, businesses and civil society to transform food systems to deliver more nutritious foods for all people, especially the most vulnerable and distressed population groups. They do this through three strategic objectives; increasing consumer demand for nutritious and safe food, increasing availability and affordability of nutritious and safe food, and changing market incentives, rules and regulations to encourage the production and consumption of nutritious and safe food.
The SBN is a private sector focused initiative and branch of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, a multi-stakeholder movement to address malnutrition worldwide. The SBN is operated through GAIN and co-hosted by the UN World Food Programme. The SBN aims to increase the availability and affordability of safe, nutritious foods to consumers, especially low-income consumers through activities at global and national levels. At a national level, the SBN convenes businesses, assesses technical and financial needs for members, and advocates for the role of business in addressing nutrition. The SBN has established national networks across Asia (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Sri Lanka) and Africa (Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia), which gather more than 600 members, mostly small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
At a global level, the SBN currently has 23 members—most of which are multinational companies working in the food and agricultural sector. They actively support access to improved nutrition through diverse activities including:
The implementation of workforce nutrition programmes and policies
Over half of the global population will spend at least a third of their adult lives at work; access to optimal workforce nutrition programs can positively impact overall health. Workforce nutrition programs are a set of interventions that work through the existing structures of the workplace to address fundamental aspects of nutrition amongst employees or supply chain workers. These programs are also beneficial for employers who can observe returns on investment of up to 6:1 as well as reduced absenteeism, enhanced productivity, reduced medical costs from 25-30%, and significantly lowered rates of accidents and mistakes.[i] The SBN facilitates peer learnings amongst its members and provides information and support around the implementation of relevant tools such as the Nutrition at Work Handbook[ii] designed by GAIN.
The support to SMEs
Small firms account for 70% of global employment. In Africa, 70-100% of foods are sold through SME channels, and small and medium-size farms provide about 80% of total calories in sub-Saharan Africa. With the SBN Business to Business Technical Assistance Platform, SBN global members can support those SMEs that are critical to the food systems of low- and middle-income countries. For example, in July and August 2020, experts Unilever and Cargill led a meeting—covering marketing and branding, and financial planning and budgeting respectively— to 21 SMEs located in Asia and Africa. Additionally, during the 2019-2020 SUN Pitch Competition, Cargill and DSM each offered cash prizes of $10,000 and mentorship packages to one of the finalists. The competition was organised by the SBN, connecting SMEs from low- and middle-income countries with technical assistance and investment opportunities.
Implementing workforce nutrition programmes and providing technical assistance to SMEs in low- and middle-income countries are activities that every company can put in place to support access to safe, nutritious food worldwide.
Vitafoods is the largest community for the global nutraceutical industry, with access to start-ups, SMEs and larger corporations from over 110 countries around the globe. Together with the SBN and GAIN, Vitafoods' aim is to encourage and mobilise more businesses at global and national levels to act and invest responsibly in improving nutrition. Over the coming years, GAIN and the SBN will feature in many of Vitafoods’ projects and initiatives—the first of which will see Laurène Aubert, nutrition growth lead and global partnerships manager at GAIN and the SBN, speaking on our mainstage at the Vitafoods Virtual Expo on 9 September. If you are a company interested in supporting better nutrition in low and middle income countries, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] Introduction: The evidence for workforce nutrition programmes, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Retrieved on Nutrition Connect, 10 August 2020.
[ii] The Nutrition at Work Handbook, 2020, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. Retrieved on Nutrition Connect, 10 August 2020.