The numbers are staggering. About 820 million people worldwide remain undernourished, around two billion people do not receive enough vitamins and minerals from their daily nourishment and over two billion adults suffer from obesity or overweight. At the same time, the food system is responsible for about 30% of GHG emissions and 70% of freshwater use, whereas the conversion from nature to agricultural lands is the main driver of biodiversity loss. This is not the world in which we want our children to grow up!
Children are particularly vulnerable in the face of malnutrition since it can hamper their physical and mental development, with harmful effects for the rest of their lives. Globally an estimated 250 million children under five years are too short and/or too thin for their age or height, or obese. A frightening 45% of child mortality under five years is linked to undernutrition. At the same time, obesity also runs alarmingly high amongst kids.
Fit for the future
The Triodos Future Generations strategy invests in companies that support an ecosystem of equal opportunity, health and well-being, education, and safety for children. Thriving children are key to a prosperous future, that’s what Triodos' Future Generations strategy is all about.
One of the strategy’s central investment themes is children’s survival and health. Children need a balanced diet, basic hygiene, and care. The strategy invests in companies that provide such products and services to children, mostly focusing on companies in the food and beverages, healthcare, and household products industries.
These companies are often active in developing, agricultural areas and therefore also contribute to local communities becoming more prosperous, thus enabling children to grow up in better circumstances.
The strategy’s food investments are mainly cornered in the ingredients segment. We see these companies as the ‘picks and shovels’ that are well positioned to support the transition to healthier diets. Even though the well-known large-cap food companies are expanding their offerings in healthier, including plant-based, foods, over the past decades they have moved forward in the value chain and have built strong brands above all in processed foods. These are not necessarily the healthiest foods, to put it mildly.
Moreover, the companies the strategy invests in are increasingly contributing to greater preservation of the environment, biodiversity and the mitigation of climate change by actively supporting more sustainable farming practices. These companies source, process and deliver the natural ingredients that replace and reduce the ‘baddies’ in food: fats, salt and sugar. They improve nutritional profiles by adding vitamins and minerals, which are important contributors to children’s health and development. By tackling food waste, for instance by extending the shelf life of products, their products can also reduce costs for their customers and for society. A clear win-win for all.
The Triodos Future Generations strategy portfolio contains several food companies.
Spanish Ebro Foods is a leading supplier of consumer branded rice and pasta products. Particularly wholegrain rice and pasta are rich in nutrients and vitamins, minerals and fibers. Both categories are also an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. These are especially important for children as they keep children active longer, helping them grow and develop, both physically and mentally. Besides being healthy, Ebro’s product range is also affordable.
Dutch-Swiss combination dsm firmenich is an innovator in nutrition and health ingredients, including maternal and early life nutrition. It is the leading supplier of vitamins, essential for embryo development, eyesight and lung development. It helps to prevent pneumonia, still a serious threat to young children. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants, but unfortunately not always available to all. This is where dsm firmenich comes in. It is the leading supplier of HMOs (Human Milk Oligosaccharides), an important component of human milk, which enables dietary supplement innovations that support gut health and immunity as of the start of life.
Irish Kerry is a world-leading provider of taste and nutrition solutions for food and beverage markets. It offers consumers new taste experiences and added functional benefits like immunity support and digestive health. Kerry’s ingredients aim to replace fat, salt, sugar and other additives while maintaining tastes that children and adults like. Its plant-based offerings enable people to develop lower carbon, healthier nutrition.
No food without, non-alcoholic, drinks. Japanese ITO EN has been a pioneer in green tea, while it also distributes other beverages, such as vegetable and fruit juices. An impressive 75% of its portfolio consists of un-sweetened drinks. This differentiates ITO EN from traditional companies that add sugar and other sweeteners to their products. Green tea has numerous benefits for children. It helps protect teeth, fight flu and colds and improve memory and concentration. Tea is also low in calories, while its antioxidants support cells to break down fats and tea can also mitigate obesity risks as it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.