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From functional products to fortification: How the UN's Sustainable Development Goals can boost business outcomes

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

There are $2.3trillion of gains to be achieved by helping the UN hit its goals.
There are $2.3trillion of gains to be achieved by helping the UN hit its goals.

Related tags Nutrition

Tapping in to the UN’s Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) through fortification, functional products and reformulation can offer the food industry substantial growth opportunities – but more needs to be done to secure private sector financial investment.

There is often a tendency to see the 17 SDGs and their 169 targets as costs and challenges, instead of opportunities for growth, said director of AlphaBeta Fraser Thompson.

But speaking at our Food Vision Asia summit in Singapore, he said smarter firms and investors could reap significant rewards by acting in a socially responsible manner.

He cited research that showed there was potentially $2.3 trillion of gains to be achieved by helping the UN hit its goals, one of which is to eliminate hunger.

“So many of the goals have an impact on the food industry,”​ he said, “but only if it realises that a business as usual approach is not the way forward.”

He said the business gains for helping tackle obesity and malnutrition would create new markets and provide space for new products, while a greater focus on sustainability would sharpen production processes.

“There are 800m people going hungry and 2bn with micronutrient deficiencies,” ​he said.

“A further 2bn are overweight or obese. Reformulation of products is going to be a huge opportunity, as is fortification to combat micronutrient deficiencies.”

Capital at scale

He also said working towards the SDGs could create jobs, predicting that India and China would be a line to benefit the most.

The main problem, however, is securing the capital to develop food-based opportunities, especially at scale.

“The capital requirements to support SDG opportunities in food is $320bn. It’s a massive amount. We are engaging with a number of institutional investors to look at how this ca be achieved, and there is real interest around this,”​ added Thompson, who previously worked with the World Bank, Oxford University and McKinsey.

“We then need to get the private sector engaging wth public policy, standards and regulations… so they can work towards product innovation, from functional foods to fortification.

“These are big areas of disruption and require a lot of attention,”​ he added.

In December we reported how only two countries out of the 19 being monitored in Asia-Pacific would meet the UN’s SDG of achieving zero hunger​ by 2030 if undernourishment rates continued to reduce at 2010-15 rates.

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