How a jar of Nutella inspired the invention of a life-saving nutritional supplement.

Have you heard about Plumpy'nut? It's a remarkable story from Africa's most impoverished areas.

People are calling it "Africa's miracle food."

Plumpy'nut is a simple formula that is saving thousands of lives every day.

The product was invented by a French scientist, Andre' Briend, who had worked for years to develop an effective ready-to-eat nutritional supplement, until a jar of Nutella sitting on his table in Malawi gave him the idea of trying a Nutella-like paste instead of other forms of food. Eventually, in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund, the French company Nutriset began packaging the formula under the name "Plumpy'nut."

It's an odd name, but it's a powerful concoction. The mix is easy to make. It consists of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar and supplemental vitamins and minerals. It's ideal for relief agencies working in remote areas because it requires no refrigeration and no water.

Malnourished children who eat the paste start to gain weight immediately and within weeks become relatively healthy. The product doesn't need to be administered by doctors or nutritionists; instead mothers can feed the paste directly to their children. This is another important reason for it's success.

Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian medical agency, is seeing dramatic results in Niger and has nothing but praise for Plumpy'nut. American journalist Anderson Cooper travelled with the CBS program 60 Minutes to aid camps in Niger and was astounded by what he found.

You can see the full video report here.

This simple paste will make a big difference in Africa's future.

Additional information:

Doctors Without Borders article.

Also: A Blender in Malawi

And many thanks to Cristiano Galbiati for his photograph of the Kenyan landscape (Tzavo National Park)
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  1. This is a very interesting story! Somebody in my house knew and told me all about it, so it was nice to see confirmation of all this information in your blog.

    There must be a synonym for 'paste'...something a little more elegant. Paste reminds me of wallpaper paste, someone who gets 'pasty' from being out in hot weather too long, or 'pasties' that are used by, well, um women in a certain type of club.

  2. You should also mention that this wonderful product is patented in many African countries although it was inspired by Nutella and developed using public funds. Christina Gorman has good overview on her Blog at Harvard Law and Doctors Without Borders have some comments, too.

  3. Thanks for your comment about the patent process. I appreciated the link to Christina Gorman's blog. Very interesting. The thought did occur to me that this may indeed be "glorified peanut butter" and how could this be patented? Perhaps it has something to do with the packaging or the vitamins and minerals that are added.
    The main thing to me is that it's better than liquid products in Africa and that it is so effective at saving lives.