The US food major's plethora of brands, including Yoplait, Nature Valley and Pillsbury, are sold worldwide and the company develops and distributes more than 50 breakfast cereal and bar products under its joint venture with European major Nestlé - Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW).
Established in 1990 and headquartered in Switzerland, CPW first entered Latin America via Mexico in 1992; followed by Colombia, Chile and the Caribbean in 1995; and Argentina and Brazil in 1996. Brands under the venture include Cheerios, Fitness and Nesquik.
'Every meal is an opportunity'
Mary Carmen Mondragon, nutrition manager for Latin America at General Mills, said CPW was an important joint venture where all cereals sold were a “good source of vitamins and minerals”.
“Micronutrient deficiency is a public health issue that has been documented, especially for vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc. As a nutritionist, I believe that every meal is an opportunity to get vitamins and minerals that your body needs, and that is why cereal plays a very important role in providing whole grain for energy and vitamins and minerals for vital functions,” Mondragon told NutraIngredients-LATAM.
However, working in Latin America sometimes had its challenges, she said, particularly from a regulatory standpoint.
“Ever-changing regulations are a challenge,” Mondragon said. “General Mills has very high standards for food safety and it is our practice to apply our global food safety standards when there is no local regulation on a specific topic.”
The company also worked closely with “highly respected scientific organizations” like the International Life Science Institute (ILSI), she said, to encourage “productive dialogues with government and academia for the development of science-based regulations in many countries”.
'Meaningful' fortification in Latin America
Mondragon said the region had “many laws” defining fortification, as well as a number of regulations defining the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), dosages and limits for nutrients.
“Cereal Partners Worldwide complies with regulations and has made an effort to provide a meaningful amount of vitamins and minerals in their products, providing at least 15% RDA of five B-vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid, as well as significant levels of calcium and iron in their cereal,” she said.
According to a report from the Sight and Life Foundation and World Food Programme, more than two billion people worldwide were effected by micronutrient deficiencies and the problem was “pervasive” throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicated 45% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean suffered from one or more forms of malnutrition, most commonly hunger; overweight and obesity; and micronutrient deficit.
At the beginning of the year, FAO-LATAM's senior food security and nutrition officer identified malnutrition as one of the top three most important issues for 2019.
Scott Montgomery, director of the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI) – a public-, private-, civic-sector partnership established to push forward fortification of industrially milled grains – previously told NutraIngredients-LATAM fortification of staples was the only way to “reach the masses and most vulnerable” affected by malnutrition, but said functional products could co-exist with such programs.