Feed the Children

Sunday 2 June 2013, by Albert Fisher

6 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Nutriset was founded in 1986 by the agricultural engineer Michael Lescanne after ten years investigating in the field of humanitarian nutrition.
The company started investigating and producing therapeutic milks to treat severe malnutrition and in 1996 they invented Plumpy’Nut (the first ready-to-eat nutritional paste for nutritional rehabilitation in severe acute malnutrition).
Nutriset invests its annual profits in R&D and to support consortia research to reach the objective of nutritional autonomy. From this perspective, Nutriset has developed a system of Online Usage Agreement allowing local NGO and manufacturers in developing countries to use their patents. This agreement permits to make nutritional autonomy more possible. In return for the free patent, these organizations must contribute of 1% of its sales paid to the French IRD which co-owns the patents. 
Nutriset now offers a wide range of ready-to-use therapeutic food and collaborates with World Health Organization researching and adapting products to meet emergency conditions and fight other problems like diarrhea producing zinc sulfate tablets.
The company has set a network of local companies that act as franchises. This fact allows production through sustainable systems and also contributes to the economic development of the regions.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

According to Save the Children, the nutrients a child receives in its first 1000 days of life – from conception until its second birthday – will have an impact on its entire life. Malnourished children will perform much worse at school that their well fed peers. On average they will be 7% worse at maths, make 19% more mistakes when reading simple sentences and 13% less likely to be in the grade that corresponds to their age. These children will also have more health problems and have less physical strength than well fed children.
Once they leave school, the problems caused by malnutrition in their first two years of life will continue to cause them problems as adults. Because of their inferior cognitive capacities and weaker physical strength, they will earn up to 20% less than other adults. As malnutrition affects poorer families much more than wealthy ones, this has the effect of reinforcing or even worsening inequality in these societies. 
There are few issues affecting children nowadays with such a long lasting and damaging impact on their lives. Eradicating malnutrition is one of the United Nation’s Millennium Development goals; however programmes that aim to tackle these issues are seriously underfunded and the issue lacks international visibility.
One of the solutions included in Save the Children’s report is providing micronutrient supplements to pregnant women and malnourished children. Nurtriset provides one of the most innovative ways of providing these micronutrients with its Plumpy’Nut product. It has been proven to be extremely effective at treating and reversing the effects of extreme malnutrition in children. It is constantly innovating to improve its products and help even more children.
Through its Plumpy’Field network, it is making sure that its products can quickly get to the people who need them the most. By creating Plumpy’Nut manufacturing plants in sub-Saharan Africa, not only is it helping to solve the problem of malnutrition, but also providing local jobs in these countries and helping to grow the economy.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

Since the beginning, Michel Lescanne the CEO of Nutriset is helping to curtail malnutrition with a profitable and sustainable business. To produce near to the concerned population, Nutriset and its CEO contribute to build factories in Africa. Moreover, since the Nutriset foundation, Michel Lescanne helps to create a modern agro-industrial subsidiary in Africa.
Nutriset has been proven to be an ethical and sustainable business which has a turnover about € 101M in 2011. Its turnover defines it as the world leader in the treatment of the malnutrition. However, Nutriset knows its strong position but money is not the aim of this business. Industry is often considered as undesirable in the humanitarian environment because it is often motivated by profit. Michel Lescanne’s strength was to be accepted demonstrating that he shared their same goals. In 2007, ten years after the Plumpy’nut invention, WHO and UNICEF explicitly recommend Nutriset therapeutic aliments to treat malnutrition. Step by step, the market has taken off.
In five years, Nutriset multiply four times its turnover. United Nations, NGO are its main consumers. This success has roused critics with the argument that humanitarian action and economic business are not compatible. About this accusation, Michel Lescanne argues and defends its business. First of all, even if Nutriset possesses a quasi-monopoly, managers of the business explain that they have refused to diversify its production to made alimentary complements for sportsmen. Nutriset wants to follow its first and single goal: feed the children. Nevertheless, to help more and more children, they need money to finance their actions and innovations; so they make money to reinvest it in R&D. Moreover, the Plumpy’nut patent is available for a symbolic price. Always in the same aim to fight the malnutrition and help population, Nutriset produces the quarter of its production in concerned countries, employing more than 500 people.
Be there where exists a need is the goal of business. Act following human values and moral is the aim of ethic. Consequently, find the appropriateness to create an ethical business is possible.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

The challenges which the company could face are related with the implementation of the ONLINE USING AGREEMENT.
The innovation of these products depends of the volume of investments because the main goal is to reach the majority of people who are suffering malnutrition.
So, the proposed of this Usage Agreement is the continuation of the policy lead by Nutriset and IRD up to now, which aims to use the patents as a tool of development.
What could be interesting, is that big multinationals around buying this economic patents and reinvest the profits to continue the research of the products to end the extend malnutrition.
The company may improve adapting the conditions of the patents to the companies who are interested in collaboration. As many firms work with the cause, Nutriset is going to develop new resources for all these poor people.
But what is interesting, is that this agreement with the economic patents, could be applied in different situations to try to eradicate some problems which needs of large investments to be solved, or at least reduced.

Group Members

Rocío Aguilar
Albert Fisher
Tatiana Leroy
Pol Pérez



Sector: Human health and social work activities

Official website:

Key figures:

Revenue: 101 million EUR (2011)
Nº of children treated with Nutriset products: 5.3 million (2012)
Nº employees: 121 (2011)
Nº of PlumpyField members: 15 (2011)
Nº jobs created in developing countries: 500 (2012)
Operates in: 80 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin Ameirca (2012)

Nbr. visits: 1837

Nbr. inspires: 6