Fonterra is the world’s largest dairy producer and an advocate of family health through its various brands. Joanna Lee speaks to Fonterra’s managing director and head of business who share their desire and passion to nurture and support healthier and happier Malaysian parents and children towards achieving their brightest potentials and dreams.
“Ibu, ibu, engkaulah ratu hatiku” (Mother, mother, you’re the queen of my heart) goes the song from Fernleaf milk powder’s touching television commercial, which paid tribute to mothers in three languages nearly forty years ago. That advertisement helped springboard the relatively new and unknown milk brand into Malaysian hearts and minds, propelling Fernleaf to second position just behind its top competitor within its first few years in Malaysia. Since 1975, Malaysians have enjoyed not only Fernleaf, but also Anlene, Anmum and even the popular Anchor butter brands in their daily lives.
Managing director of Fonterra Malaysia and Singapore, Jose Miguel Porraz Lando credits Fonterra’s success to the hardworking 10,000 farming families in New Zealand who start milking their pasture grazing, hormone-free cows as early as 4:30am. “Our milk across our brands comes from happy cows,” Lando said with a smile.
“At Fonterra, we’re a co-op. The farmers own the company and manage the farms themselves. They are the ones that created Fonterra and that allows us to be in a unique position to have full traceability and control from farm to consumers’ homes to ensure the perfect nature of milk remains,” Lando explained while sipping a glass of milk.
Every day, Malaysians drink about 2.2 million glasses of pure New Zealand milk on average across the country, thanks to Fonterra’s meticulous cold chain process that ensures the collected milk’s temperatures stay at 4°C all the way within minutes of milking until they reach the Susumas and Dairymas milk products processing plants in Malaysia, one of which was refurbished and launched in May 2017 with an eye to cater to growing dairy demands in all of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Their global business services centre is also located in Kuala Lumpur.
“We see Malaysia as a unique place and we want to create a healthier and happier Malaysia through our brands, catering to Malaysians right from conception, pregnancy, childhood and supporting adults with brands like Anlene,” Lando said.
Each cup of milk an innovation for health
Fonterra’s innovations are specifically aimed towards meeting the health challenges and needs of the country. “Malaysia is facing a really strong challenge in fighting obesity and the consequences of it is manifest in non-communicable diseases like Type 2 diabetes. What’s shocking and most concerning is that one in 10 children under the age of five are already facing these consequences,” he said. They launched the Anlene Heart Plus milk powder that specifically supports heart health in May 2017.
“It all starts really from the nutrition that a mom enjoys throughout her pregnancy and the food that children get exposed to early on. All this will establish their current wellbeing or situation,” Lando said.
“One of the key drivers of obesity is clearly sugar. It’s also clearly proven that when younger children are exposed to sugar, they build a very strong preference for sugary products.
“When kids are not exposed to sugar, they are more likely to enjoy vegetables because they don’t expect sugar,” he said.
“That actually sets them up for life,” he continued, “not only through the nutrition our brand provides but by not building any inherent bias in favour of sugar,” he explained.
In October, Fonterra sponsored Kidzathon, a unique walkathon that combines physical exercise and mental development. Parent and kids teams were unleashed on an adventurous role-playing quest at DesaPark City. “A healthy and happy Malaysia requires lots of things but two important ingredients are a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. That’s why the partnership between Kidzathon and Fonterra was a great opportunity to bringing these two ingredients together. We need to rediscover the joys of having fun outside,” he said.
Head of Business for Fonterra Brands Singapore and Commercial Director of Fonterra Brands Malaysia Chin Lee Foon shared her thoughts about Fernleaf CalciYum’s presence at Kidzathon where children were taught about the importance of calcium and immunity through the catchy CalciYum song, “We see a common mission here at Kidzathon to help children grow well to develop their physical side and confidence. Kidzathon is a great platform where they educate parents and bring families together for outdoor activities. As parents play a very important role in kids’ health and growth, the good thing that parents can do is to choose the right nutrients for their kids.”
“CalciYum is strong in nutrients, not only in calcium, it A-Force nutrient bundle also contain vitamin D and Probio DR20TM which supports intestinal health which in turn, supports nutrient absorption and better immunity,” Lando explained. He said they have worked hard to have no artificial colours or any added sugar.
Parents’ education in good nutrition important
“We’ve seen that children who enjoy sugar from an early age are much more likely to reject a healthy diet later on,” Lando said. That’s why parents need to understand what “no sugar” really means. “Some brands say they don’t have sucrose, which is correct, but they may have fructose or other types of added sugar. There are more than 50 names that sugar can be called and that is hard for parents to understand,” he said.
“So, we make it easy for parents. When we say no added sugar, we absolutely mean any type of sugar whatsoever is not included in those products,” he emphasised. Parents must start to learn to read ingredient labels.
But equally important is that parents take care of themselves in order to care for the family, Lando said.
Fonterra has achieved the Ministry of Health’s “Healthier Choice Logo” approval due to their milk which has one of the lowest sugar levels in the market, Lando said. Their Anlene brand packaging also lists its low glycaemic index number that supports adults who want to control their blood sugar level.
Consumers would be pleased to know that the New Zealand government is the only non-Muslim country in the world that has developed a full halal certification programme verified by its government to support their agriculture industry, so Fonterra products are halal-compliant.
“The more Malaysians enjoy our brand, the better impact we can have on the health and wellbeing of the nation,” Lando said before finishing his glass of milk. It looks like the glass is half full for a healthier Malaysia.