Anne Engerant
Senior Vice President and General Manager LATAM
Health of RB
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View from the Top

Raising Awareness of the Nutrition Gap

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 10/19/2020 - 10:42

Q: What have been RB Health’s main achievements over the past few years?

A: We went through a big acquisition in mid-2017 when RB Health bought Mead Johnson Nutrition Company in a transaction valued at approximately US$17.9 billion. As a result, Mead Johnson became a new division of the company and its globally recognized Enfamil and Nutramigen brands joined our portfolio of leading consumer health products. We spent the following years working on the integration process and in 2019 we started to see the impact of our acquisition.

In February 2019, RB Health also announced the acquisition of UpSpring, an innovative pre and post-natal healthcare company based in Texas. This acquisition reinforced RB Health’s commitment to supporting mothers and infants in the first 1,000 days of the baby’s life.

Child nutrition is the biggest division in RB Health and we are working to keep it that way. We identified the strengths that Mead Johnson could bring and we wanted to make sure not to lose them. We added value to our commercial strategy and we developed a new awareness campaign that has been very successful. The tools we used to generate consumer insights for this campaign were mostly consumer groups, focus groups, interviews and consumer panels. By questioning their needs and doubts with fresh eyes, we can develop new campaigns to operate in the niche of child nutrition. We applied that same logic to our Enfagrow children’s nutrition brand, to achieve more penetration. We want to see how far we can go in closing the nutrition gap in the country. Children in Mexico are moving quickly toward cow milk or even no milk at all after their first birthday, which we know is very bad for their health. Today, our efforts are aligned to achieve our purpose of protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner healthier world.

Q: How do you promote healthier habits among the Mexican population?

A: It is all about education. We use more mass media for which we developed two campaigns, one of which is debunks cow milk and is called “Better Nutrition.” We try to educate people that cow milk is not sufficient to meet children’s nutritional needs because it has no docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is key for neurodevelopment. Babies could get the necessary level of DHA from a normal diet but they would need to eat fish. However, we know kids do not eat fish, especially Mexicans. This campaign worked extremely well. The campaign was divided into physical advertisements, social media and events. We use TV but also digital and in-store ads, using visuals and banners.

Q: How do you collaborate with healthcare professionals from the public or private sectors?

A: We work closely with doctors who help us to simplify the medical language and turn science into a more understandable and engaging language for people. We approach the medical community in compliance with local and international regulations. Besides child nutrition, we look forward to having more initiatives geared toward sex education, sexual health, how to protect yourself when you are sexually active, STDs and pregnancy.

We have a very good program called PARESS, which took shape in 2019 and is dedicated to educating young people about sex. This program involves NGO Mexico Vivo, Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Farmacias del Ahorro, INEGI and the British Ambassador. At IPN, many students were giving up on their studies, in many cases because of unplanned pregnancies. With this program, we educate them in their first year of university. We have reached 5,000 students and we now have developed a digital tool to reach more universities. We are already in contact with some of the biggest ones. The objective is not to sell but to educate. To this end, our services are completely unbranded. We also need to educate teachers and parents to really ensure we are helping teenagers to have a better sexual life. INEGI was very interested in this program, which is why we worked together on the first sexuality study in Mexico at the end of 2019. 

Q: How are you fighting the misuse of antibiotics in Mexico?

A: Antibiotic resistance is going to be one of the world’s biggest health issues by 2050 and it will become the No. 1 cause of death globally. One of the main reasons for antibiotics misuse is that they are used to address simple symptoms like a cough. It is also not just a case of self-medication because people need to visit a doctor for a prescription. In nine out of 10 cases of flu or cough, the origin is a virus, which renders antibiotics completely useless. Only one in 10 cases is related to bacterial infection and even if that is the case, the patient may not need an antibiotic. In Mexico, doctors prescribe antibiotics for most cases, sometimes not because they want to but because patients insist on it. 

We decided to approach this issue at a global level. In Mexico, we started with UNAM and the Mexican Council of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. The president of the latter was very interested in working with us to see how we could educate the authorities, doctors and patients to not only prescribe an antibiotic but products to manage the cough symptoms and reduce sore throat. 

Q: What products are you introducing to the Mexican market in the short term? 

A: We are going to keep pushing the products we already have. At the same time, we are making a special effort on the Choco Milk and CAL-C-TOSE brands to reduce their sugar content by 50 percent and help fight obesity and diabetes. We are also innovating in condoms but our main goal is support integral sexual education taking in to account the audience.

The next health issue on our list is to address the misuse of Omeprazol and effervescent tablets. In Europe, the active ingredient in these products is only available by prescription. They are really good but they have two issues: it only takes one week for the product to become ineffective and they have many negative side effects. One of which is that the stomach starts to generate resistance and patients then have trouble quitting the product. If they do, they sometimes suffer a relapse.

 

Reckitt Benckiser (RB) is a British consumer goods manufacturer that participates in segments that include home care, hygiene and health. The company is present in over 60 countries through brands like Durex, Mucinex, Nurofen and Scholl

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst