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Nutrition: What Does it Mean for Emerging Economies?

By Narendra Nag, Regional Director, Integrated Planning & Asia Practice Leader, Social Media and Digital, MSLGROUP Singapore

Food supply is no longer the big problem facing the developing world. Agricultural yields are up across the developing world thanks to better seeds, improved irrigation, and a host of other agricultural extensions. But one of the major results of massive food security programs, like that of India’s Green Revolution, has been the homogenization of agricultural produce. As sources of nutrients have disappeared from regular diets, the big problem facing the developing world today is nutrition security – ensuring a nutrient-rich diet.

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In India, for example, wheat and rice are the largest food staples, replacing a host of millets and other grains. This has directly impacted the amount of protein in the diets of most Indians who’re unable to afford meat or other alternate sources of protein on a regular basis (unlike the West, India and other developing countries often rely on millets and lentils as their major source of protein).

A shift in primary dietary habits

While it has been suggested that the developing world will eventually follow the nutrition patterns of the developed world and introduce more meat into their diets with growing incomes, there are significant challenges to livestock farming at scale. Livestock requires feed, putting further pressure on existing agricultural yields. A rapidly developing China, easily at the head of the class of the countries that were considered “third world” in 1980, perhaps best exemplifies this problem.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the growth potential for grain production in China is one of the most controversial issues in the recent hot debate on “who will feed China.” The prevailing views of most Chinese scholars are that China basically has to rely on itself to meet the increasing demand. The growth potential lies in yield improvement which can be realized through intensification of land use, as there is hardly any possibility to expand the farmland area. In China, virtually all arable land has been put into cultivation. In many places, such as in the Loess Plateau, semi-arid regions in the Northwest and mountainous areas in the Southwest, very fragile lands which are not suitable for cultivation at all have also been explored for grain production.

The impact of a nutrient-poor diet is significant: Malnourishment statistics are alarming and call for sustained intervention. The challenge for food companies and brands, especially when expanding to emerging markets, will be to place significant emphasis on the nutritional value of their food – as is increasingly being expected – and to effectively communicate it to consumers.

Activating Health & Wellness in the Conversation Age

The impact of a nutrient-poor diet is significant: Malnourishment statistics are alarming and call for sustained intervention. The challenge for food companies and brands, especially when expanding to emerging markets, will be to place significant emphasis on the nutritional value of their food – as is increasingly being expected – and to effectively communicate it to consumers.

Infographic - Health & WellnessInvest in desirable alternatives

Conduct research to find alternatives to artificial food colorings, preservatives and other ingredients conventionally used in packaged and processed foods. Constant innovation will only help food brands to keep up with the demand for ‘clean’ food.

Communicate your commitment to consumer health & safety

Consumers want to know that brands are taking their health seriously. Tell your consumers what you are up to – engage them in a conversation about the initiatives being undertaken to make healthier, safer food available to them.

Be transparent about your products

Enable consumers to feel more confident about the food they purchase. They want to know what goes in the making of their favorite foods – make that information easily available to them. This not only helps them in their healthy eating goals, but also helps establish trust.

Make healthier food options more affordable

Most ‘health’ foods on an average are priced more than the other ‘normal’ variants, which is often a deterrent for the consumer. Make healthier options cheaper; make clean eating more accessible.

This article is a part of MSLGROUP’s report The Future of Food Communications: Winning Share of Mouth in the Conversation Age.

Comm Drivers

Narendra Nag At MSLGROUP, Narendra has developed content-centric, data-based and story-driven strategies within social and digital media for large corporations as well as innovative tech start-ups. He is adding the role of Asia Practice Leader for Social Media and Digital to his current position as Regional Director, Integrated Planning & Digital of MSLGROUP in Asia. Connect with him on Twitter @narendranag

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