With almost 25% of the world’s malnourished concentrated in a single country, introducing a vitamin-rich cooking oil creates positive impact.
Although a self-sufficient food producer, India is home to one quarter of the world’s hungry, and an estimated 40% of the country’s children are malnourished. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, accounting for nearly one-third of the world’s growth-stunted youth.
But simultaneously, India has seen unprecedented economic development, citing higher incomes that have spurred a fast-emerging middle class. Not only does this new consumer base have increasing purchasing power, but also a greater degree of health consciousness.
After 27 years, Cargill India has gained a strong, instinctive understanding of this evolving Indian market. The business began as a handful of employees working out of a house, expanding into today’s network of more than 2,000 employees.
Knowing that cooking oil is a staple in over 99% of Indian households, regardless of income (annual per capita consumption is 15.4 litres or 14 kilograms), Cargill focused on infusing the product with essential vitamins as a solution to malnutrition. Research had shown that fortified oils were more cost-efficient than pills: not only were they easier to distribute to large populations, the oils also integrated more naturally into consumers’ daily lifestyles.
In 2008, the company funneled its efforts into fortifying two of its top edible oil brands: Nature Fresh™ and Gemini®. Because price and value are key parameters for Indian consumers, the team chose to absorb the fortification costs, enabling them to deliver the new and improved products to a broader population.
In addition to creating a new competitive advantage for Cargill in the Indian market, the project helped provide essential vitamins (A and D) to over 30 million people across the nation, and supported the nation’s battle with malnourishment. The effort is but one element of Nourishing India, a large-scale, multi-pronged initiative to solve the country’s problem of food security, specifically by tackling issues of micronutrient deficiency, distribution and delivery.
Today, Cargill fortifies all of its consumer-pack oil brands in India with essential vitamins: vitamin A to improve eyesight and vitamin D, which helps bones absorb more calcium to become stronger.
Over time, the innovation motivated competing brands to fortify their oil offerings, too—a market-wide change that Cargill welcomes. Knowing it will help more Indians recover from chronic vitamin deficiency, Cargill India’s chairman Siraj Chaudhry says, “It is a competitive advantage we were quite happy to lose.”