Fortified biscuits: Britannia bakes a plan for a healthy business

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on September 18, 2014

MP:Health&Wellnes, Britannia Industries at the launch of Britannia Healthy Start.

In fortifying its biscuits with iron and other nutrients and vitamins, Britannia Industries sees the fulfilment of two of its goals — tackling nutrition issues in the country and building a sustainable business model.

Britannia’s interest in tackling malnutrition was a composite of three factors — the state and extent of child malnutrition in India, the company’s vision and credo, and the biscuit category it operates in. The company fortified its largest power brand Tiger with iron in April 2008.

“Iron in children’s diet is critical for both physical and mental development. In India, close to two-thirds of children under five years suffer from iron deficiency, and close to 50 per cent of school-going children suffer from the disorder,” says Ali Harris, Director-Marketing, Britannia Industries. Since children across the country enjoy biscuits, the company says it makes for an ideal fortification and effective delivery mechanism.

“The challenge was for the research and development (R&D) team to get the product right. It took us close to 16 trials to manage costs, taste and iron effectiveness,” he said, replying to queries on e-mail.

The R&D team at Britannia ensured that the cost of fortification was addressed through system efficiencies in handling costs, and was not passed on to the consumer. Currently, fortified products, including Tiger, MarieGold, Milk Bikis, and milk-based beverages and staples such as bread sell close to 3.5 billion units annually, and constitute 55 per cent of Britannia’s bakery volumes.

UN programme

It started with an order from the United Nations World Food Programme to make fortified biscuits, which sparked the idea of producing fortified biscuits for the domestic market. “Britannia’s association with the World Food Programme began in the early 2000s, and lasted until 2011. Over 32,000 tonnes of our Glucose product was supplied through this programme,” said Harris. Innovation has fuelled growth at the company. Stating that Britannia has been working with many non-government organisations (NGO) to supply specially formulated iron fortified biscuits to school-going children, Harris added: “Our desire is to reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency among children.

The efficacy of our iron-fortified product in bringing down anaemia has been validated both by in-house research as well by external agencies.”

He added that the company’s ongoing endeavour is to “align with NGO partners, who have a national or regional footprint to increase reach to at-risk children.”

Published on September 18, 2014

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