Strong social messages in branding keep malnutrition high on agenda

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Vitamin A is essential to support rapid growth and to help combat infections. Vitamin A deficiency left untreated may lead to blindness and increased risk of illness and death from childhood infections.©iStock/jansucko
Vitamin A is essential to support rapid growth and to help combat infections. Vitamin A deficiency left untreated may lead to blindness and increased risk of illness and death from childhood infections.©iStock/jansucko

Related tags: Vitamin angels, Nutrition, Vitamin a deficiency

Functional tea company t plus drinks donates £0.10 (€0.12) from the sale of every box to the charity Vitamin Angels, which it hopes will help fight vitamin A deficiency. 

Founder of the vitamin-A enriched tea makers, James Dawson, told us his company pledge committed to donating a percentage of profits to help tackle one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in children.

“As well as makers of a functional beverage, we wanted to communicate a strong social message,”​ explained Dawson. 

“[Vitamin Angels] ​work with malnourished children and new mothers around the world. We participate in their vitamin A programme and donate £0.10 (€0.12) from the sale of every box that goes towards funding the vitamin A supplements they supply.”

t plus’ efforts may seem small in comparison to the initiatives of larger organisations, but the start-up was at pains to point out that doing their bit can go a long way.

“It costs just £0.20 (€0.24) to provide two doses of vitamin A to one child during their most vulnerable years (six months - five years),” ​said Dawson.  

“Therefore every two boxes of t plus sold means one child is supplied with vitamin A supplements for a year.”

The company are one cog in a very large machine that counts on support from the private sector to drive Vitamin Angel’s nutritional programmes and interventions.

European action

T plus logo
t plus teas combine a natural combination of vitamins with ingredients such as yerba mate, ginseng and dandelion to produce functional beverages. ©t+ drinks/James Dawson.

Along with other European-based companies such as powdered food makers Huel and vitamin suppliers Viridan Nutrition, Vitamin Angels also counts on multinationals such as capsule makers Capsugel, DSM and Lonza for support.

“We are proud to play a small part in Vitamin Angels’ admirable efforts,” ​said Guido Driesen, president and CEO at Capsugel. “They are having a significant, positive impact on the health of tens of millions of at-risk women and children worldwide.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. In pregnant women it causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality.

It's estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight. The deficiency affects about 190 million preschool-age children, mostly from Africa and South East Asia.

Vitamin Angel’s procure micronutrient supplements and collaborate with partners that have a local presence in and understanding of the areas served.

By providing antiparastics and one high dose vitamin A capsule to children under five twice yearly, its ‘Operation 20/20’ program has contributed significantly to reducing child mortality and blindness associated with the deficiency.

In the past Vitamin Angels has hailed the commitment of community members, as well as gathering support from governments and the private sector as key in creating long-term sustainable solutions.

“Understanding the national and cultural context of the countries where we work is vitally important,”​ it told us. 

“We work with local partners who design, staff, and execute their own micronutrient distribution programs, and agree to absorb all distribution costs. Building the capacity of these organisations helps promote the sustainability of our micronutrient supply and distribution systems.”

A worldwide issue

Despite the WHO’s statement that vitamin A deficiency mostly affects those living in Africa and South-East Asia, the issue is a worldwide one.

In Europe, around 33 million people are at risk of malnutrition. Research points to one third of patients in hospitals and nursing homes particularly at risk of undernutrition, along with 10% of individuals over the age of 65 in the EU.

Estimates place the cost of malnutrition to the EU alone at a whopping €120 billion per year.

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