Tata Chemicals, having attained success with Tata Salt, its pioneering iodine-fortified
salt brand, has now embarked on the double fortification of salt with iron, in
addition to iodine. Aptly named Tata Salt Plus, the new product, currently being
manufactured in Mithapur, is retailing at Rs20 per kg.
The iodisation of salt was a campaign that ensured an enduring legacy of health
and well-being for millions of individuals across India. By combating severe
iodine deficiency, iodised salt managed to bring down the incidence of goitre
by almost 76 percent.
Iodisation has become hygiene for products in the packaged salt category. But
this was not so two decades ago. Iodine deficiency disorders affected large
sections of populations across the world. Food fortification was chosen as a
strategy to combat micronutrient deficiencies, as it was the most effective
way to deliver micronutrients like iodine to the masses. Tata Chemicals pioneered
the salt iodisation movement in India by launching India’s first branded
iodised salt – Tata Salt.
Now the company is working to treat iron deficiency, another critical micronutrient
deficiency that affects almost every fourth person in the world. Anaemia is
a global public health problem affecting both developing and developed countries
with major consequences for human health and social and economic development.
It occurs at all stages of the life cycle, but is more prevalent in adolescents,
pregnant women and young children.The National Family Health Survey-3 has indicated that iron deficiency affects
55 percent of women, over 70 percent of children and 25 percent of men in India,
across all socioeconomic classes. Among women of reproductive age, 51 percent
were seen to be affected.
Ashvini Hiran, chief operating officer, consumer products, Tata Chemicals,
says, “During our market research, we learned that salt is seen as a nutrient
carrier by a lot of consumers. Another factor that works in its favour is that
salt is self-regulatory in nature, so a person will eat a specific quantity
of salt per day, unlike other staple commodities like sugar. Therefore, intake
of nutrients provided through salt can be easily regulated. The other major
advantage is that salt is consumed by all socio-economic sections of society.”
The advantage of using Tata Salt Plus is that at an incremental cost of just
3 paise per person (for a family of five), it can provide 50 percent of an individual’s
daily iron requirement, assuming a daily consumption of 10g of salt per person.
This makes it far more cost-effective compared to more expensive iron-rich foods
like leafy vegetables, dry fruits, chicken, mutton, etc, and iron supplements.
Also, the fact that vegetarian foods have low bio-available iron content, compared
to non-vegetarian food, makes Tata Salt Plus a welcome addition to the diet.
The double-fortified or iron-fortified iodised salt formulation was developed
by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad. Tata Chemicals partnered
with NIN in developing and perfecting the formulation, which was later tested
in various types of food preparations. Perfection was achieved in whiteness
and free flow. In terms of taste, there was no perceptible difference between
iodised salt and double-fortified salt.
Mr Hiran says, “Since vacuum-evaporated salt is a purer form of salt,
we decided to use vacuum-evaporated salt as a base salt in the making of double-fortified
salt. We worked together with NIN. To obtain a product conforming to safety,
efficacy and acceptability standards, multiple iterations were required, and
we introduced some scientific interventions to achieve all these.”
The vacuum evaporation method is technologically more advanced than the method
used to obtain solar salt. It enables the removal of more impurities and ensures
a purer salt. Incidentally, Tata Salt is one of the two Indian salt brands that
are manufactured using the vacuum evaporation method.
The successful development of the product, however, was only half the battle
won. Tata Chemicals faced a bigger challenge in terms of educating consumers
about the need for iron-fortified salt in the context of the widespread prevalence
of anaemia in the country.
Mr Hiran says, “Through our educational campaign, we informed people
about the symptoms and prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia. The data says
that every second child in India is anaemic, and that the problem occurs across
regions and population groups, afflicting the poor and rich alike. Through Tata
Salt Plus, we offer an effective solution to the iron needs of the entire family.”
The company created awareness about the brand and the problem of iron deficiency
anaemia through advertising and consumer activations, including street plays,
promotions in schools, etc. As a result of the sustained effort, demand for
the product steadily grew and Tata Chemicals and Tata Salt Plus were able to
taste success in the first phase of the launch. The brand has already been launched
in North India and parts of South India. Nationwide roll-out will be completed
by March next year. Meanwhile, various state governments have expressed interest
in the product.
Tata Chemicals’ innovations and efforts have led to the Tata Salt brand
being entrenched in the mind space of consumers for decades now. With Tata Salt
Plus, the company embarks on a new mission, that of eradicating iron deficiency
anaemia from the nation, and making India iron-strong.