How Peanut-Based Nutritional Products are Fighting World Hunger

Two hands of an African child holding a peanut

The global food shortage crisis remains a formidable challenge, with approximately 828 million people experiencing hunger in 2021, according to the United Nations. There is a critical need for sustainable food solutions that address immediate nutritional deficiencies and long-term food security. Central to this fight is the humble peanut, a crop that has proven to be much more than a tasty snack. 

Peanuts are nutrient-dense and easy to produce in various climates. They offer a sustainable option for nourishment in parts of the world where hunger is most acute. Organizations like the World Health Organization recognize the potential of peanuts, particularly in the form of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) products. Products like Plumpy’Nut are designed to treat severe acute malnutrition in children. They have been an integral part of humanitarian efforts worldwide.

In today’s blog post, we will discuss how peanuts are helping to achieve a world free of hunger. We will look at the organizations involved, the products they distribute, and the challenges of this industry.

What Are Peanut-Based Nutritional Products?

Let’s break down the two main categories of peanut-based products, RUTF and RUSF, and see how they help.

Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF)

These are high-energy peanut pastes packed with essential nutrients. They are specifically designed to treat severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the most life-threatening form of undernutrition.

RUTFs offer a concentrated source of protein, calories, fats, vitamins, and minerals that rapidly promote weight gain and recovery.

Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF)

These products are designed to prevent malnutrition in at-risk populations, such as children under 5, pregnant women, or those with chronic illnesses. They are similar to RUTFs but often have a lower calorie density.

RUSFs come in various forms, such as energy bars, biscuits, and fortified spreads. The main goal is to supplement a person’s regular diet with important nutrients. They are essential for preventing further decline and supporting overall health.

NOTE: While non-peanut-based RUTFs and RUSFs exist, this article focuses on those made with peanuts. This is due to the context of our website, which specializes in nuts.

Plumpy’Nut is the Most Popular Example

Plumpy’Nut is the most popular Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food. Its single-serving packets make it easy to distribute and consume even in challenging situations. 

They deliver concentrated nutrition, allowing severely malnourished children to regain weight and health remarkably quickly. It has been instrumental in saving countless lives during famine and humanitarian crises.

Popular Variations of Plumpy’Nut

Let’s now explore some popular variations of Plumpy’Nut. Each addresses specific dietary needs and health concerns:


Manufacturers developed Plumpy’Sup (a RUSF) for children who require supplementary nutrition. This variation aims to prevent malnutrition from becoming severe. 

Plumpy’Sup comes as a peanut-based paste in 100-gram sachets. It allows for easy home-based treatment under supervision. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, and essential fats from peanuts and vegetable oil.


This version is a specialized RUTF that includes a mix of micronutrients to support the immune system and overall health. Its main focus is combating vitamin A and iron deficiencies. 

While similar in form to Plumpy’Nut, Plumpy’Doz typically comes in jars or tubs that provide a weekly ration. It’s ideal for preventative programs focused on children from six months onwards.


A RUSF is targeted towards pregnant and nursing mothers. It was created so that women in high-risk populations receive adequate nutrition. 

The formula has extra nutrients necessary for healthy pregnancy and lactation outcomes. It addresses obesity and malnutrition paradoxes by providing healthy fats and avoiding excess calories.

Like the other variations, Plumpy’Mum is available in easy-to-distribute and consume sachets.

Why Peanut-Based Products Work

Product formulations based on peanuts are a powerful tool in fighting starvation. Their nutritional density, ease of use, and adaptability make them effective in various situations. Let’s examine these advantages more closely.

  • Rapid Recovery: Supplements such as these help reverse the effects of severe acute malnutrition swiftly. They supply essential nutrients that the body can immediately utilize, speeding up the recovery process.
  • High-Impact Ingredients: Peanuts are energy-rich, with a high content of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. This composition is then enhanced with a blend of vegetable fat, dry skimmed milk, sugar, and essential vitamins and minerals. The final product delivers the crucial calories, proteins, and micronutrients needed for health. A single packet provides a rich source of nutrients.
  • Ease of Use: There’s no need for cooking or refrigeration. They are practical under various conditions where resources are scarce. 
  • Additionally, due to the low moisture content, they have a long shelf life and resistance to bacterial contamination, which adds to their effectiveness in emergency situations.
  • Adaptability: Flavors can be modified to meet regional tastes. This important detail ensures better acceptance and consumption, particularly among children. 

Case Studies in Different Countries

RUTFs like Plumpy’Nut are now used in over 70 countries worldwide! Here are a few case studies that show the power of these peanut-based supplements. We’ve included links to these studies so you can explore the original resources.


Researchers found that children with severe malnutrition gained significant weight when eating RUTF. On average, kids gained over 5 grams of weight per kilogram of their body weight each day! Many children recovered in 36 days.


RUTF is widely seen as a lifesaver in Ethiopia, but it’s important to understand that hunger isn’t just about food. This interesting study shows that families facing extreme poverty sometimes need to share or sell the RUTF to survive. This shows us that for aid to be truly effective, we must also address the broader economic struggles these families face.


Even in challenging situations, RUTF shines. A clinic in Chad reported saving 94% of severely malnourished children treated with Plumpy’Nut, a type of RUTF. Their work shows that even in places with limited resources, peanut-based foods can make a huge difference.

Other Countries

The following resource offers a summary of eight additional studies that illustrate the effectiveness of Plumpy”Nut.

Main Organizations Involved in Peanut-Based Nutritional Products

Several organizations specialize in the production of RUTFs and RUSFs. Let’s look at a few of the key players:

Global Manufacturers

  • Nutriset: As the original inventors of Plumpy’Nut, the French company remains a major player in the production and distribution of RUTFs and RUSFs globally. They provide immediate nutritional support and help sustainable agriculture practices in peanut production. Nutriset collaborates with entities like the World Food Programme and UNICEF.
  • Meds & Food For Kids (MFK): Operating in Haiti, Meds & Food For Kids (MFK) produces RUTF to combat malnutrition in children. They work closely with local farmers to enhance peanut crop yields, which in turn increases their manufacturing capacity. Their work directly improves local agricultural practices to guarantee a reliable supply of high-quality peanuts.
  • Mana Nutrition: A US-based manufacturer with the mission of addressing hunger, especially during critical times like pandemics. They make sure their products are available and accessible, feeding children in need. They also support partners like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Project Peanut Butter.
  • Valid Nutrition: This manufacturer focuses on producing peanut-based RUTFs and RUSFs designed to match the specific needs of the communities they serve. Committed to boosting local economies, they source ingredients directly from regional farmers. Valid Nutrition partners with notable organizations such as the University of Georgia (UGA) to drive both nutritional and economic development through their products.

Regional and Local Focus

  • Insta Products: Based in Nairobi, Kenya, this innovative manufacturer produces InstaPaste. It’s a nutrient-enriched peanut paste available as both RUTF and RUSF, designed for treating acute child malnutrition. Their local production model supports the Kenyan economy and facilitates distribution within East Africa.
  • Compact: A Norwegian company with significant operations throughout Africa. Compact ensures widespread distribution of RUTF across the continent. Their facilities are critical in getting these supplements to remote and crisis-affected areas.
  • Edesia: This US-based producer dedicates significant resources to research on the adaptation of their products. They want to guarantee that their RUTF and RUSF formulas are best suited for different dietary restrictions and local taste preferences.
  • Local Producers: Companies like Hilina Enriched Foods in Ethiopia, and others across Africa and Asia, demonstrate the increasing importance of local RUTF/RUSF manufacturing. As a result, this promotes both nutrition and economic development within the communities most in need.

Partners and Distributors

  • UNICEF: While not directly producing RUFTs/RUSFs, UNICEF is a major partner. They procure and distribute vast quantities from organizations like those listed above. Their extensive networks make sure that peanut-based products reach children worldwide.
  • World Food Programme: The WFP provides a great help in getting RUTFs and RUSFs to those in critical need. They often focus on emergency situations, making sure these life-saving products reach populations grappling with conflict, natural disasters, or other situations that may cause food shortages.
  • International NGOs: Organizations like Action Against Hunger, Save the Children, and Doctors Without Borders are often at the forefront of distributing peanut-based nutritional products. They collaborate closely with manufacturers and aid agencies to ensure effective on-the-ground delivery.

Challenges and Limitations

While products made from peanuts are a powerful tool in fighting child malnutrition, their production and use face significant challenges. Let’s examine some of these hurdles:

Funding Issues

Making and delivering RUFTs and RUSFs costs money. Aid budgets are not always enough to meet the constant need, and production costs themselves can fluctuate. This means there may not always be enough to reach every child who needs it.

Peanut Quality Matters

Peanuts used in these formulations need to be safe and nutritious. Aflatoxin is a harmful mold that can grow on peanuts; even small amounts can make people sick. Farmers need resources to test their crops and guarantee the peanuts are high-quality.

Competition in the Peanut Market

As you probably noticed at your local grocery store, peanuts are used in many food items. The competition for peanuts can affect their supply, production, and quality.


Delivering RUTF to millions of children in remote areas or war zones can be difficult. Reliable transportation and infrastructure are crucial but not always readily available. Sometimes, bad weather or conflict can disrupt supply chains, making it even harder to get this life-saving food to the children who need it most.

Patent Controversies

There have been debates about patents on specific RUTF/RUSF formulas. Patents give companies exclusive rights to produce a product. Some argue that these patents make products more expensive and can limit who can produce them.

Local vs. Imported

There’s a growing movement to produce foods made from peanuts locally, in the areas where they are needed most. This can support local economies and be more culturally appropriate. However, setting up local production takes time and resources.

In addition, established brands like Plumpy’Nut continue to prove they can still be very effective in childcare emergencies. That contributes to a lack of urgency in local production.

More Than Peanuts

At NutGeeks, we love nuts, and we are incredibly proud of our beloved peanut. We would love to tell you it is the mighty savior of such a global problem. However, it’s important to remember that food, even when highly nutritious, is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to tackling famine. There are many factors at play.

RUTFs and RUSFs work best when children have access to healthcare alongside the food they provide. Unfortunately, in many areas where malnutrition is a problem, there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, or clinics to give children the full support they need.


Most people know peanuts as crunchy snacks. But they’re also a powerhouse of potential! When turned into convenient little packets, like Plumpy’Nut, they become a weapon in the fight against malnutrition.

Their potential is undeniable, from the remarkable recovery rates they bring to the boost they give local economies. The work done with RUTFs and RUSFs proves that foods as simple as peanuts can make a world of difference.

Seeing global organizations collaborate to deliver these products to the most vulnerable populations is inspiring. While challenges exist, the potential of peanuts in achieving a hunger-free world remains immense.

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