Hershey India Pvt Ltd, a part of The Hershey Company, has developed Sofit Plus, a plant protein-fortified drink exclusively for its ‘Nourishing Minds’ social initiative. Designed to meet the nutritional needs of underprivileged kids, the drink was developed by Hershey India in collaboration with IIT-Bombay, Sion Hospital and the NGO Annamrita.
The product is a result of an in-depth research conducted by IIT – Bombay amongst a group of underprivileged children (within the age group of 6-18 years) from suburban slums in Mumbai. Based on this study, Hershey India developed Sofit Plus – a special plant protein-fortified drink designed to meet the nutritional needs of underprivileged kids in India. As part of the initiative, the study focused on three main areas: a) to provide evidence of the role of nutrient supplementation in overcoming undernourishment; b) to determine the efficacy of the plant protein drink Sofit Plus and c) to understand its impact on the overall growth.
One serving (200ml) of Sofit Plus was provided to approximately 500 children twice a day, for 6 days a week, for 3 consecutive months. The research, team led by Prof Narendra Shah at IIT Bombay, meticulously monitored the field performance at the chosen schools in Mumbai.
The BMI results indicated an overall decrease in the percentage of both `thin’ (from 18% to 8%) and `severely thin’ (from 17% to 2%) children. It also showed an overall improvement in anthropometric measurements amongst underprivileged kids, possibly due to presence of high-quality soy plant protein in Sofit Plus along with other biological factors such as age, gender, their daily diet. Results of blood parameters indicated significant effect of Sofit Plus on vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, ferritin and total protein levels in the undernourished kids. Recovery from deficiency of these nutrients were close to 75% to 100%.
The research revealed startling data such as 30% of the kids are below normal BMI of which 18% are thin, 11% are severely thin and 0.9% are underweight. It further indicated major deficiencies in the intake of carbohydrates, fats and proteins amongst children. Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Zinc and Iron deficiencies were also highlighted through dietary recall and analysis.
Herjit Bhalla, Vice President India and AEMEA at The Hershey Company said, “Designed to help meet the nutritional needs of underprivileged kids in India, this product is backed by rigorous research and development, to help address the low nutrition levels amongst the designated group of children and help contribute towards building a healthier future for them.”
Prof Narendra Shah, IIT Bombay, said, “Lack of nutrition among children is often the invisible problem in developing nations. India is home to millions of stunted children. A country cannot aim to attain economic and social development goals without addressing the issue of malnutrition. It is essential to focus on children’s health for inclusive growth and educational development as they will be driving the future of our country. We are happy to be a part of the Hershey India’s innovative research and development team. We are extremely encouraged by the positive results delivered by Sofit Plus in addressing the nutritional gaps in malnourished children.”
“Sofit Plus is specially manufactured with added plant proteins and micronutrients for distribution to students of participating schools. Made with added nutrients, the product should be beneficial for the children’s overall health and growth,” Shah added.
There are various forms of malnourishment and deficiencies that affect children. Childhood deficiencies include an insufficiency in protein, energy and micronutrients namely iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc. The problem is particularly severe in India. Hershey India’s ‘Nourishing Minds’ initiative is aimed at bridging this nutrition gap.