Nearly fifty years after the “nutribun” came out in the 1970’s as a part of the government’s feeding program, the current Philippine government has now developed an enhanced version of the bun to address hunger brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But just how enhanced is DOST’s enhanced nutribun – which it developed in response to the call of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Feeding Program During Community Quarantine or Other Similar Emergencies.

Nutrition in a bun. Nutrition-wise, the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s (DOST-FNRI) enhanced version answers the children’s need for micronutrients, energy, and protein requirements.

Unlike the largely wheat-based nutribun of the 1970’s, mainly produced for the undernourished [children] sector of the population, the enhanced version can also be consumed by healthy Pinoys. The enhanced nutribun is made from squash that is rich in vitamin A, a nutrient that is commonly lacking in the regular meal of Filipino children.

Based on the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey, children aged 6-9 years old have 63.1% vitamin A inadequacy, while those in the 10-12 years old bracket have 76.1% vitamin inadequacy.

The Enhanced Nutribun has more micronutrients like iron and vitamin A. The texture is softer and weighs 160- 165 grams per piece, which makes it easier for children to hold and bite. Each serving has 504 calories, 17.8 grams protein, 6.08 milligrams iron and 244 micrograms vitamin A. A piece of enhanced nutribun already provides 60% of requirements for vitamin A.

“The product is not only good for young children but also for the other population groups, particularly, pregnant and lactating women, and our senior citizens. Even the well and healthy population need products like the enhanced nutribun. It tastes good, and we are not limiting consumption to the undernourished. You may taste it to believe us, then look at the nutrition label,” Engr. Rosemarie G. Garcia, Chief Science Research Specialist of DOST-FNRI, said.

A bun made by Filipino nutrition experts. In a story published by Esquire two years ago, on “A History of the Nutribun, the Well-Intentioned Bread from the '70s,” the Philippine government’s Nutribun program happened this way: the U.S. through its Food for Peace program facilitated the donations of wheat flour and non-fat dry milk powder as the primary ingredients for the Nutribun program of the Philippines. Ruben William Engel, a Nutrition Advisor at the time, and his team of nutritionists working for USAID Nutrition, developed the bread formulation. The U.S. Wheat Associates provided technical assistance to the local bakeries handling the production of the Nutribun. Each bun had 500 calories and 17 grams protein.

The current formulation, however, is done by an all-Filipino team from DOST-FNRI. They started reformulating enhanced nutribun from the original formulation of squash bread, which the Institute developed way back in 2003. It was not copied from any foreign formulation. It was developed by Filipinos for Filipino consumers focusing on the needs of school age children, 6-9 years old.

While there are other products, the bun instead, is being used to address the nutrition problem. A liquid product is more difficult to distribute than a solid, and multivitamins are usually synthetic. Thus, the nutribun. According to FNRI, based on the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey, covering 14,556 school-age children, bread or pandesal is the top five food source of the total energy intake. And in developing any product to address a nutritional problem, the one which is the most commonly consumed should be used.

There are specific nutritional problems that the enhanced nutribun is targeting, and it uses a local vegetable as one of main ingredients, of which there are plenty in the Philippines.

The ‘public good’ bun technology is free for local entreps.  The technology on the production of enhanced nutribun is a “public good technology” and it is available for entrepreneurs. DOST-FNRI will give it for free to qualified entrepreneurs who has technical capability to commercially produce the product (i.e. with a GMP compliant facility or working towards it, willing to invest in equipment and raw materials), and has a legal identity (a registered and taxpaying company, etc).

During the enhanced nutribun’s soft-launch last July 2020, there were three potential technology adopters: Century Pacific Corporation; Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation (NFMC) and Aretei Foods Corporation. More has been added to the list since then.

Both Nutridense Corporation and Aretei Foods Corporation have already signed licensing agreement with DOST-FNRI. They were both trained on the production. NFMC started the operation in their newly built facility on 07 October 2020 and have received orders since then. Aretei Food Corporation, on the other hand, is still producing their puree at FNRI, but it has also started receiving orders for this.

Because of their belief on the benefits of the bun, NFMC even donated 250 enhanced nutribun to a locked-down barangay in Pangasinan during that time.

Also, in October, Regions II and IV-A conducted virtual tech transfer training, virtual site visits, and ocular inspection for the technology adopters of Enhanced Nutribun. In Region II, there are four licensees: the AJ’s Bread and Pastries; J.A. Fruits and Vegetable Processing; Quirino Livelihood for Everyone (Q-life); and J’s Bakeshop & Delicacies.

In Region IV-A, there are 14, the Gem See’s Cakeshop; Swisspharma Research Laboratories Inc.; San Jose Workers MPC; MRG Food Products/Malou’s Bakery; Magifrance Bakeshop and Café; Doughpro Manufacturing & Trading Corp.; LGU-Mauban, Quezon Province; Panaderia Pantoja, Inc.; Golden Wheat Bakery; El Richard Bakery; Anica’s Home Bread Store; Momilo Mio; Congw. Angelina “Helen” D.L. Tan, MD; and Amira’s Buco Tart Haus.

Since there is no more charge for technology licensing, the primary cost will only be the setting up of the facility and the purchase of equipment that will largely depend on the scale of production. DOST-FNRI’s pilot plant engineers will assist the entrepreneurs in terms of the plant lay out and the listing of equipment to be purchased.

Based on the assumptions and computation of the Institute’s engineers, the return on investment in enhanced nutribun is more than 30% with payback period of 2-2.5 years.

Entrep’s experience with DOST technologies.  Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation (NFMC) was among the first three to sign up for the Enhanced-Nutribun technology of DOST-FNRI.

Racky Doktor, owner of NFMC, said their company, which has a mission of helping reduce malnutrition through production and distribution of research-based food technologies, signed up immediately after learning about the Enhanced Nutribun because the product is very nutritious, timely, and needed by both children and adults.

NFMC officially opened their nutribun facility on 26 October 2020 which signifies their readiness to cater to the needs of DepEd and DSWD Feeding Programs. However, Doktor also sees an opportunity in offering a nutrient-filled bread to the general populace, so they can also avail of its nutritional benefits, especially in this time of pandemic. Aside from distributing in Pangasinan, where their plant is located, the company also plans to supply other areas to the extent that their capacity will allow.

The enhanced nutribun, likewise, contributes to the labor force of NFMC, with the 24 employees added, so as not to affect their existing production of other products. They will also be needing additional staff for deliveries as order begin to come in. The buns will be distributed via direct delivery, thru distributors, via online or pick-up from NFMC office at Malanay, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan.

Being an adopter of several DOST technologies, Doktor advises those who plan to get into business using locally developed technologies, such as the OFW’s, the retirees, or any regular Filipino with these: “First, personal discernment of why an investor should go into an investment is a must. Second, investing into a developed technology is an advantage. Third, locally developed technologies yield better results.”

Estimated 1M children to benefit from DOST enhanced nutribun. In the ‘70s, 30 million nutribuns were given to 200,000 children. However, DOST-FNRI cannot give the exact number of children who will benefit from its enhanced nutribun since the distribution will depend on DSWD, DepEd and the LGUs. Garcia said the Institute’s rough and conservative estimate is that 1 million children may benefit from the product.

“We have more malnourished children now, than in the 70’s,” Garcia said.

DOST-FNRI is a research and development institute that develops the product and transfers it to partners who commercialize the product, who in turn bring these to the intended consumers. For the enhanced nutribun, DepEd, DSWD and DTI expressed support for the product. In fact, DepEd and DSWD have already set aside the funds to give the products to the children for free through their school and supplementary feeding programs, respectively.

DOST-FNRI is inviting Filipinos, especially those who are in business, to partner with them in  commercializing and producing the enhanced nutribun, and to bring it not only to school children but to all those who want nutrition in a bun! (S&T media service, Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin)


Racky Doktor, owner of Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation, shows off the enhanced nutribun that is now commercially available. (image grab from FB page of NFMC)

Weighing each bun before putting them in individual packs ready for shipping.

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