Opinion: Innovation is essential to global food and nutrition security
July 17, 2020
In this article, co-authored by Ratih Neumann, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Leader for Cargill APAC, and Ritta Sabbas Shine, Country Support Manager of the SUN Business Network, we explore how innovation amongst companies large and small can be leveraged to achieve global food and nutrition security.
Much is already happening to support good nutrition worldwide, but we can – and must – do more. For example, whilst adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 significantly increased global attention on nutrition, the 2020 Global Nutrition Report indicates that “one in every nine people in the world is hungry, and one in every three is overweight or obese. More and more countries experience the double burden of malnutrition, where undernutrition coexists with overweight, obesity and other diet-related non-communicable diseases.” Clearly, progress towards reaching global nutrition targets, including those in the SDGs and in the World Health Assembly’s Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition, has been too slow and we are not on track to meet them within the projected time frame.
Innovation is key to accelerating progress towards nutrition goals, and companies have an opportunity to lead – by supporting innovation within their own walls, and beyond. “Innovation in all its forms – technology, digitalization and research and development – provides the means to address some of the greatest challenges facing the global food system,” says Michelle Grogg, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Cargill. “Cargill believes technology plays a critical role in leveraging the power of food to find solutions to shared global challenges like hunger, malnutrition and the sustainability of our food systems.”
Private sector leadership around innovation to strengthen our food system’s ability to deliver affordable, nutritious food to an ever-growing global population is critical. Companies must not only invest in research and development for their own product lines and services but must also invest expertise and in-kind resources to foster innovation within the broader food system – that means investing in and partnering with farmers, entrepreneurs and SMEs.
This is why Cargill sponsored the SUN Pitch Competition in Indonesia in December 2019, in which entrepreneurs presented their SMEs’ innovative solutions to improve the availability of affordable, nutritious foods for low income consumers. Cargill hosted the three winning entrepreneurs on a tour of a Cargill facility in West Java, discussing and teaching them how to manage food safety, quality, and regulatory issues (FSQR) as well as Cargill’s approach to research and development.
Cargill is further sponsoring the global SUN Pitch Competition 2020, in which entrepreneurs from 21 African and Asian countries who won their respective country competitions, and who have since been undergoing business development training, seek investment to scale and further catalyze innovation in their local food systems. Cargill is offering a prize to the entrepreneur who presents the most innovative way to enable access to good nutrition.
Cargill also looks to long term partners to collaborate on innovation in the food system. For example, the World Food Program offers opportunities for companies to partner on their Innovation Accelerator, an initiative designed to identify, nurture, and scale bold solutions to achieve zero hunger. This gives another opportunity for the private sector to invest in innovation among start-ups, small companies, NGOs, and others.
In responding to changing consumer preferences and market demands, companies must also seek to innovate around improving the nutritional profiles of their products. Cargill, for example, launched the first commercial high oleic, low saturated fat canola oil in 2018. The company has also innovated around sugar reduction, offering sweetener options like zero-calorie EverSweet™ sweetener. Innovation in Cargill additionally includes helping farmers and producers provide affordable food safely and sustainably, for example, through its investment in facial recognition for dairy cows and robotic herders.
The food system is comprised of companies of all sizes, with entrepreneurs around the globe innovating around meeting their local communities’ nutritional needs. And while some of these entrepreneurs, and the problems they seek to solve, may not garner the attention of major investors, they are no less valuable in our shared goal of ensuring global food security. Large food companies, such as Cargill, have an opportunity to support these less-resourced innovators in developing and scaling their solutions to support nutrition, by collaborating with communities, partners, and other companies.
Capitalizing on the innovative spirit that is prevalent throughout the supply chain will enable us to identify and implement at-scale solutions to ensure people around the globe can consistently access affordable, safe, healthy food to nourish themselves and their families. Together, we can achieve ‘Zero Hunger’.
Cargill is a sponsor of the SUN Business Network’s SUN Pitch Competition 2020 and will award a Prize of US$10,000 for the best ‘Innovation to Enable Access to Improved Nutrition’ to one of the 21 finalists.