Global partnerships to enhance nutrition
The complexity of global nutrition and health issues such as overnutrition and undernutrition needs a joint approach by the public and private sector.
Working with partners is essential if we are to achieve our goals. In such partnerships our consumer research and marketing insights, as well as our R&D capabilities and nutrition expertise, provide an understanding of changing consumer lifestyles, consumer needs and what prompts effective behaviour change.
In 2012, we launched the Unilever Foundation which aims to improve quality of life through the provision of hygiene, sanitation, access to safe drinking water, basic nutrition, and enhancing self-esteem.
To help achieve the Foundation’s mission, Unilever has formed partnerships with five leading global organisations: Oxfam, Population Services International (PSI), Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP). We are partnering with WFP in Project Laser Beam, a public-private partnership that aims to create a scalable, replicable and sustainable model to improve nutrition, health and livelihoods. The initiative is focusing initially on Bangladesh and Indonesia.
International Union of Nutritional Sciences
In early 2009, we signed a partnership agreement with the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS). A first meeting – the International Expert Meeting (IEM) – was held with 40 of the world’s leading experts in diet, nutrition and health, from more than 25 countries. The discussion focused on nutritional guidelines for optimal fat quality. Delegates agreed to endorse the use of high-quality fats such as plant-based margarine and mayonnaise instead of butter. This conclusion formed the basis for a global awareness campaign on appropriate fat choices, with each participant agreeing to champion this message in their countries.
In 2010, about sixty experts participated in the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) meeting in Maastricht, Netherlands. The third such meeting of its kind, it centred on dealing with academic controversies. Scientific debate was mixed with workshops. Inspirational examples of communication tools and use of new media were shared. Some of the participating countries also held local events involving various diet and health influencers, such as scientific experts and chefs, to communicate the benefits of fat in the diet. In 2011, the IEM convened a satellite meeting at the 11th European Nutrition Conference (FENS) in Madrid, Spain, on the topic of ‘Essential fats and child development’.
The goal of this meeting was twofold: firstly, to help scientists and practitioners working in the field of fats and health clarify current knowledge on the role of essential fats in child development; and, secondly, to help them relay clear and simple messages to the public - to help people to achieve a better quality of fat in their diet. In 2012, the IEM organized a symposium during the Latin American Nutrition Conference (SLAN) in Cuba on the "Health significance of fat quality in the diet: Latin America and Global perspective."
In the area of salt reduction, we have jointly developed one-day workshops with the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS). The workshops aim to generate consumer-friendly approaches to promoting salt reduction and are based on country-specific consumer insights that identify the barriers to people changing their behaviour.
Working with nutrition and health experts
In the development and launch of our products and campaigns, we work with experts and advisers in nutrition and health. Our community of around 200 nutritionists maintain relations with local experts and national and international organisations. This enables our nutritionists to understand their concerns and to share with them our knowledge on scientific, nutritional and health issues relevant to our brands.
Our nutrition and health researchers frequently take up positions on advisory and expert committees or lecture at universities. We also seek independent advice to validate our nutrition activities and consult with our key opinion formers internationally on our research programmes. We share some examples of our collaboration below.
Unilever collaborates with hundreds of research partners, including prominent food health institutes and universities such as the Top Institute of Food and Nutrition in the Netherlands and the India Diabetes Research Foundation. We share much of our research through external presentations and peer-reviewed publications.
Recent publications include:
A paper illustrating the international application of the Daily Menu Method to predict the potential effects of nutrient profiles on daily nutrient intakes.
Research in the area of weight management, satiety and hunger investigating a wide variety of ingredients for their efficacy and effectiveness.
The effect of tea on vascular reactivity (the ability of blood vessels to dilate) which is an independent predictor for cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and strokes
Adding to our investigations on fats and their effects on health, two recent publications include a secondary analysis from the Alpha-Omega trial, which suggests beneficial effects of (vegetable) omega-3 on heart health in diabetics, and a review by Harika et al, showing that the fat intake of children worldwide is not optimal.