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Getting gold-star nutrition to a million Brazilians

October 15, 2014 by Laura Anderson

Maricio de Sousa and his daughter Monica holding a cardboard figure of a cartoon mother, her child, and the Vitaminado seal.

Right to left: Arroz Vitaminado champion Mauricio de Sousa with brand ambassador “Turma da Mônica” and de Sousa’s daughter Monica (the inspiration for Turma da Mônica). Photo: PATH/Greg Salibian.

PATH’s Ultra Rice fortification technology is helping families in Brazil get the nutrients they need into their diets.

In Brazil, where rice is a staple food, shoppers have choices when it’s time to stock up. Increasingly, they’re buying a group of products that look and taste just like the rice they’ve always used—but with a crucial addition: a boost of the vitamins and minerals their families need to thrive.

Standing out by blending in

The products, sold in stores across Brazil under the Arroz Vitaminado (“Vitamin Rice”) quality assurance label, contain a blend of traditionally milled rice and fortified grains manufactured without genetically modified ingredients using PATH’s Ultra Rice® fortification technology. It’s a unique approach that is helping families worldwide get nutrients, including iron, vitamin A, and zinc, that don’t always make it into their diets. By curbing chronic but often invisible nutritional deficiencies, Arroz Vitaminado products have the potential to strengthen Brazil’s families long into the future. As of this year, they have reached more than a million Brazilian consumers—and the number is still growing.

This video explains how fortified rice, Arroz Vitaminado, is made, including which vitamins and minerals are added. Video: Arroz Vitaminado.

The perfect mix

So what does it take to get better nutrition to a million people? Too often, health solutions, especially those designed to reduce hunger and boost nutrition, are manufactured far from the people who need them and then either given away or subsidized through food support programs. That approach has helped many people, but it isn’t always sustainable or efficient. PATH overcame this barrier by helping fortified rice reach consumers a different way: as an affordable and appealing product available on grocery shelves countrywide. Doing so required a wide suite of activities. Together with partners, we bolstered local production of fortified rice, established a quality assurance system, and increased its appeal and visibility countrywide.

Homemade

Consistently and safely manufacturing fortified foods requires the right tools for the job. Iron, for example, is a crucial micronutrient that must be provided in just the right amount. Some methods can also affect the color or texture of fortified grains, which consumers don’t like. To ensure a steady, high-quality supply of fortified rice, we worked with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to enable Brazilian rice millers to produce and distribute the grains. With the right tools and support millers learned to consistently mix the ingredients (primarily rice flour, water, and micronutrients); shape and dry the grains so that they won’t break; and blend them with milled rice at the right proportions. The producers also brought another “ingredient” to the table: their existing rice distribution networks. Together with supportive retailers, those networks help to ensure a consistent and reliable supply of fortified rice throughout Brazil.

Bags of fortified rice stacked on a grocery shelf under a bright yellow price tag.

Consumers can find bags of fortified rice with the Arroz Vitaminado quality assurance label on grocery shelves countrywide. Photo: PATH.

Quality assured

We also collaborated with the Federal University of Viçosa, (a founding member of the Institute for Food Fortification and the Fight Against Hidden Hunger [Instituto de Estudos e Pesquisas em Fortificação de Alimentos e Combate à Fome Oculta, or IPAF]) to create the quality assurance system that gives the Arroz Vitaminado seal its reliability and appeal. Under the system, fortified rice producers go through on-site quality audits and submit samples to IPAF for quality evaluation. When a producer passes the test, the Brazilian rice millers association, Abiarroz, allows it to use the Arroz Vitaminado seal on its product. And to keep that distinction—and the consumer trust that goes with it—millers must continue to meet high standards over time.

Vitaminado seal.

With the Arroz Vitaminado (“Vitamin Rice”) quality assurance label, consumers know they’re giving their families the nourishment to thrive. Photo: PATH.

Familiar

Today, Arroz Vitaminado guarantees consumers that the fortified rice they buy has the quality and nutrients they expect. But generating widespread appeal took insightful marketing, too. PATH partnered with producers and retailers to conduct promotional taste tests and market demonstrations throughout Brazil, and launched a social marketing campaign spotlighting fortified rice through television interviews, promotional videos, a website, and other outlets. Compassionate and inspiring product ambassadors also sparked interest.

For example, soccer star Lucas Moura championed Arroz Vitaminado and the importance of better nutrition. Artist Mauricio de Sousa, Brazil’s most respected cartoonist, also joined the campaign. De Sousa, who calls the product “a magical rice that marks the difference between having a healthier population or a less healthy one,” contributed the support of his “Turma da Mônica” family of characters. Together, these efforts have earned fortified rice a warm and lasting welcome in hundreds of thousands of Brazilian homes—giving children and their families the nutrients they need to learn, play, grow, and thrive.

Ultra Rice is a registered trademark of Bon Dente International, Inc. in the United States.

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