The tiny bouillon cube that strikes a blow against iron deficiency

Maggi have released a bouillon cube, a tiny seasoning product sold in huge volumes across Central and West Africa to fight against iron deficiency anaemia.

Anaemia is the condition that arises when we have too few healthy red blood cells, or too little haemoglobin, the protein in these cells that transports oxygen around the body.

It affects an estimated 1.6 to 2 billion people in the developed and developing world, with approximately half of these cases due to a lack of iron in the diet, because this vital mineral helps us generate haemoglobin.

Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency anaemia, which contributes to the deaths of 50,000 women in childbirth a year, and impairs children’s physical and mental development.

According to Scentific Advisor at Nestle’s Nutrition, Health and Wellness department, Petra Klassen-Wigger, many people are failing to eat enough nutritious food, with Nestle aiming to help tackle the problem on a global scale by adding relevant micronutrients to its most popular products.

“Public health data shows us that Central West Africa suffers from a high prevalence of iron deficiency. We looked at our product portfolio to identify potential carriers for fortification. Maggi bouillon cubes and tablets were widely consumed across the region, making them an ideal vehicle for iron fortification,” Klassen-Wigger said.

Adding iron to food poses serious technical challenges. It can alter the taste, and may turn products various unappetizing shades of brown.

That wasn’t the only problem. Fortifying the cubes with iron would also raise production costs. If this meant higher prices, then those in need of such products might find them unaffordable.

In 2012, Nestlé launched its new, iron-fortified Maggi bouillon cubes onto the Central and West African market. They looked the same. They tasted the same. But there was one crucial difference.

Millions of people across the region could now incorporate more iron into their diets, without changing their eating habits.