Thursday, April 2, 2015

Inspiring stuff: Plumpy'Nut

“I am hungry.”

How many times does a Mum hear that in a week? How many times are our kids really hungry? None. It’s usually just a few hours since they last ate, at the most. Still, we race about preparing a variety of offerings to ensure they get the food to keep them strong, growing and healthy. It’s our most basic yet essential job. I can’t really even imagine not being able to find food for my kids.

But, when I was being introduced to CARE and hearing of some of the stories from the team who are out working around the world we also started talking about Plumpy’Nut.

I had never heard of it and it’s not available in Australia, the CARE team had gone to some effort to arrange a few packets for us to check out.

“Would you like to try it?” they asked.

“Not really” I replied, “but I will.”

It has a smooth consistency, a peanut butter with extra sugar taste. They are certainly not jumping on the IQS bandwagon.

I seemed to be more interested in Plumpy’Nut then everyone else.

I just find the story of how things come to be really interesting.  I wanted to know who invented it, why did they invent it, how did such a product come to be?

Plumpy’Nut is a squishy peanut butter paste in a packet. But it’s really a development that is changing famines and emergency situations like never before.

Be it from drought, natural disaster or war situations there are times in our world that children in the MILLIONS are just dying due to lack of food, and as much as we want to send them some fruit and vegetables, the reality is that we can’t. Fresh foods, milks, and powders all have other problems. They perish, there is no water to add to them, the packaging spoils or they need some form of preparation. In an emergency you don’t have a sippy cup or a bowl and spoon to serve up something, there are no bottles for babies and even if there were nothing gets sterilised.  There are no fridges and the heat can destroy many foods. Sacks of rice or wheat can’t fix the hunger.

People keep starving. Children keep dying.

Then Plumpy’Nut gets invented in 1996 by a French Paediatrician and a food processing engineer, they even base the idea on Nutella…but they omit the chocolate and throw in some important vitamins and minerals instead. The business of Nutriset begins.

Nutriset package Plumpy’Nut in such a way that you simply rip the top corner off and kids just sit and suck on the packet throughout the day. No preparation required.

It doesn’t need to be in the fridge and it has a shelf life of two years.

Even more useful is that health workers can give it to parents to feed their kids without needing to put the kids in to hospital situations.

Being able to feed your kids makes Mums happy.

Plumpy’Nut is cheap, it’s tasty to kids, it’s transportable and convenient. It stops babies from dying, and they can start eating it from 6 months old.

The whole thing is just brilliant.

I get inspired by people who invent things when no one else was even working on it. Or perhaps they were, but they still didn’t come up with this answer. The rest of the world was throwing research, development and marketing into the latest chocolate bar or kids cereal for the developed world. They wouldn’t have considered the RUTF market was worth their time. That’s the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food business, for those not in the biz!

The World Health Organisation started using Plumpy’Nut in Niger in 2006 and the results were amazing. They now say that over 2,000,000 children have been saved from dying of malnutrition. Far out! Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help to think how amazing this basic food product is.

It doesn’t need swanky marketing campaigns and jingles to sell it, there is no fancy coloured design to make it attractive to kids to encourage them to choose it. The packet just uses three little pictures to show you how to eat it. Just knead the paste, tear off the top corner, and suck. Done. Your meal is served.

These days Nutriset have lots of other big business issues to deal with, they have competitors wanting in on the action and legal cases about patents. They try and make the products in countries where it is most needed and have a number of factories in Africa, but still others are fighting them to have the recipe and the rights to make similar stuff.  This is what happens when you invent something remarkable, everyone else wants to ride your coat tails.

But that’s just a side story. The real story, is babies on the verge of death slowly getting the nutrients they need to ensure they grow. Not much more inspiring then that. Is there?

P.S If you want to throw some support to CARE Australia who provide Plumpy'Nut in emergency situations, head this way.


  1. Great post, Claire and I too am in awe of people who invent something so necessary, so essential for human survival. Imagine being able to say that you were a part of saving that many lives - simply incredible. Thanks for sharing! Soph x

  2. I share your admiration for these inventors. I've never heard of PlumpyNut prior to your post, but Dean and I are supporters of SHE28 - another simple, life changing idea: sterile sanitary pads made from banana leaves.
    Love that you're onboard with CARE, I bet they're counting their lucky stars to have you. x

    1. I don't know of that one, but am heading to google to check it out.

      Thanks for your kind words. xx

  3. We sure are counting our lucky stars to have Claire’s support Cooker and A Looker!

  4. Wow. WOW. Great post - thanks for sharing. What a great solution. (Temporary, and solution is probably not the right word, but thanks for writing about it.)


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