The tiny bouillon cube that strikes a blow against iron deficiency

Maggi have released a bouillon cube, a tiny seasoning product sold in huge volumes across Central and West Africa to fight against iron deficiency anaemia.

Anaemia is the condition that arises when we have too few healthy red blood cells, or too little haemoglobin, the protein in these cells that transports oxygen around the body.

It affects an estimated 1.6 to 2 billion people in the developed and developing world, with approximately half of these cases due to a lack of iron in the diet, because this vital mineral helps us generate haemoglobin.

Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency anaemia, which contributes to the deaths of 50,000 women in childbirth a year, and impairs children’s physical and mental development.

According to Scentific Advisor at Nestle’s Nutrition, Health and Wellness department, Petra Klassen-Wigger, many people are failing to eat enough nutritious food, with Nestle aiming to help tackle the problem on a global scale by adding relevant micronutrients to its most popular products.

“Public health data shows us that Central West Africa suffers from a high prevalence of iron deficiency. We looked at our product portfolio to identify potential carriers for fortification. Maggi bouillon cubes and tablets were widely consumed across the region, making them an ideal vehicle for iron fortification,” Klassen-Wigger said.

Adding iron to food poses serious technical challenges. It can alter the taste, and may turn products various unappetizing shades of brown.

That wasn’t the only problem. Fortifying the cubes with iron would also raise production costs. If this meant higher prices, then those in need of such products might find them unaffordable.

In 2012, Nestlé launched its new, iron-fortified Maggi bouillon cubes onto the Central and West African market. They looked the same. They tasted the same. But there was one crucial difference.

Millions of people across the region could now incorporate more iron into their diets, without changing their eating habits.

Maggi noodles get a Morogo makeover

A new variety of Maggi noodles is using a common plant that some people dismiss as a weed. 

‘Morogo’ or ‘South African spinach’ refers to different varieties of green leafy vegetable that grow wild in South Africa, and a popular dish of the same name. 

Traditionally, these vegetables formed a much-loved part of the nation’s diet, but urbanisation and changing attitudes to food in the countryside have led to a decline in their popularity.

Much as Europeans have traditionally foraged for mushrooms, generations of South Africans have gathered morogo (which is high in protein, vitamins and minerals), to fry, boil or steam, and serve with onions or tomatoes.

In its new format, morogo is causing a stir on South African supermarket shelves. Until today it has never been farmed on a serious commercial scale, but now Nestlé is using morogo in the ‘tastemaker’ sachet used to flavour and fortify its Maggi noodles.

“Many packaged food brands claim to cater for local tastes, but Maggi with morogo genuinely does so. We’re offering people an authentic taste of South Africa and bringing a nutritious ingredient to urban dwellers, in particular, through a product that is quick and easy to prepare,” said Maarit Rein, a scientist working at Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The new Nestlé noodles developed out of a partnership with South Africa’s Council for Scientific Investigation and Research (CSIR) and Agricultural Research Council (ARC) from 2012, to research plants growing there with clear health benefits, for potential use in foods to improve the nation’s diet.

Taste, nutritional quality and abundance were three things that the scientists were looking for in an ingredient. It had to be possible to process it for use in a food product, and it was vital that the ingredient provide farmers with an income source. Crucially, it also had to appeal to millions of South Africans.

Nestlé and its partners decided to research three species of morogo – amaranthus, cow pea and cleome – and worked closely with farmers to perfect their cultivation, and to refine the plants into a powder that preserved their nutritional benefits.

Nestlé’s consumer research also showed that Morogo’s distinctive ‘South African taste’ is integral to its appeal across all ethnicities and income groups.

But it’s not just the taste that appeals, as Rein explained: “Using such a healthy ingredient is consistent with Nestlé’s commitment as a responsible company to promote vegetable consumption.”

Maggi noodles with real morogo are now being produced at Nestlé’s factory in Babelegi, north of Pretoria. If the launch proves successful, then Nestlé will work with farmers and the government, to develop the morogo supply chain and create lasting social value in South Africa.

“This remains our long-term goal,” says Rein. “But I’m proud of what Nestlé and our partners have already achieved with morogo over the past three years.”

Nestlé opens new beverages factory and noodle line in Malaysia

Nestlé has invested approximately $AUD122 million in a new beverages factory and noodle line in Malaysia. Both facilities are located in Nestlé’s largest manufacturing site in the country, in the city of Shah Alam, which employs close to half of Nestlé Malaysia’s workforce.

The new factory, which cost $AUD 93 million, is Nestlé’s eighth in Malaysia. It will produce Ready-To-Drink products, including Milo, Nescafé and Nestlé Omega Plus, for which Nestlé is seeing rising demand. 

Building on Maggi noodle’s growing popularity in the country, where 1.7 million single packs of the product are sold every day, 

Nestlé has also invested around $AUD 30 million in a new high-capacity noodle line to produce Maggi Curry Noodles, a favourite among Malaysian consumers. 

Over the past two years, Nestlé has invested more than $AUD192 million as part of its long-term growth strategy in Malaysia.