Royal DSM N.V., the global Life Sciences and Materials Sciences company headquartered in the Netherlands, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announce that the 2008 ICIS Innovation Awards for Best Business Innovation has been awarded to DSM Nutritional Products and WFP for the MixMe™ micronutrient powder.
In a joint initiative, DSM and WFP have developed MixMe™ sachets to provide people in developing countries with micronutrients that can be mixed with food at home. This "home fortification" is a novel approach to the enrichment of food with micronutrients, as food is usually fortified industrially during the processing stage.
This year alone, the MixMe™ sachets will reach over 250,000 people in Nepal, Kenya and Bangladesh. WFP and DSM plan to substantially increase the coverage area in the coming years to reach millions of people.
The food enriching micronutrient powder MixMe™ will enable the World Food Programme, the UN’s frontline agency for hunger solutions, to bring better food assistance to the hungry poor. In addition to the almost one billion people who are hungry there are close to another billion of people in this world who seem not to suffer from hunger at first glance but are suffering from a deficiency in micronutrients (the so-called “hidden hunger”). These people appear to have enough to eat, but often eat mainly carbohydrate rich foods such as rice or maize which do not provide the essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) needed for good health and therefore they develop all kinds of diseases such as anemia and blindness.
Feike Sijbesma , Chairman of the DSM Managing Board said: “Through various initiatives we show our dedication to improve human health and prosperity by eliminating micronutrient malnutrition. I am very proud of this award. It is a recognition of the hard work of everyone involved in the collaboration between DSM and the UN WFP and in particular in the development of the MixMe™ sachets and it shows that innovation can make a difference in helping to reduce hidden hunger, still the number one cause of death in the world."
"This is a concrete example of how a UN agency can work with the private sector to jointly develop an innovative product,” said Martin Bloem, WFP’s Chief of Nutrition. "For just 2.5 US cents per child per a day, we can save countless children's lives by giving them essential vitamins and minerals. But it’s more than that. Recent evidence shows that micronutrient deficiency in the first 24 months of life can have irreversible effects on intellectual and physical development. With the MixMe powder, we can help children fulfill their potential and help build a brighter future for entire communities."
DSM and WFP had to overcome several challenges before the sachets could be put to use. The first challenge was to produce a stable and tasteless powder and appropriate packaging to protect the contents from the harsh climatic conditions in many developing countries. The second challenge was to find a suitable packaging facility that could handle the high volumes involved, and the third was to understand and comply with the approval processes of individual governments.
Among the many hundreds of millions of malnourished people, those groups with the highest micronutrient needs include children up to the age of five and pregnant and breastfeeding women. For these groups, the lack of micronutrients can have devastating consequences, causing the death of many women during or shortly after childbirth, irreversible mental and physical impairment to their offspring, and high child mortality due to communicable diseases.
Over 1.1 million child deaths per year are attributed to deficiencies in vitamin A and zinc. A lack of vitamin A weakens the immune system and can cause blindness, while zinc deficiency contributes to stunted growth and weakened immunity in young children.
Since March 2007, DSM has been an official partner of the United Nations World Food Programme. DSM provides WFP with expertise, high nutrient products as well as financial assistance. Besides the well-known humanitarian program SIGHT AND LIFE, DSM has also developed the Nutrition Improvement Program (NIP), providing technical and scientific support for supplementation programs and for the fortification of staple foods with essential vitamins and minerals in developing countries.
The ICIS Innovation Awards, now in their fifth year, are designed to recognize those companies that have made significant steps forward through R&D, with tangible results emerging during 2007 and the early part of 2008. ICIS is the chemical publishing arm of Reed Business Information, part of global publishing group Reed Elsevier.