The first India Spotlight Index assessed the ten largest food and beverage manufacturers in India by sales. Seven of the ten companies actively engaged in the research process, i.e. provided unpublished information to augment ATNF’s research based on public sources. In addition to five multinational companies (MNCs), two Indian-based companies engaged in the Index research process: Britannia Industries and Mother Dairy. The other Indianbased companies did not submit data but two showed interest in the initiative by attending various meetings and two of the four approached to be interviewed about their fortification practices did so. This level of active participation in the first India Spotlight Index is welcomed and provides a good starting point for future engagement with the Indian food and beverage industry.
Only around 12% of the beverages sold by the Index companies and 16% of the foods were estimated to be of high nutritional quality in the Product Profile analysis. This worrying picture shows that many manufacturers have much work to do to improve the nutritional quality of many of their products and/or to invest in new product development to broaden their product offering. Despite the small role packaged products currently play in many Indian people’s diets, F&B manufacturers in India have an unprecedented opportunity, as consumption of these products starts to grow in line with increasing incomes to become a major part of the solution to India’s double burden of malnutrition. This will not happen, however, in the absence of major and urgent changes to companies’ core business models and their product portfolios.
On the Corporate Profile, the highest-ranking companies are Nestlé India and Hindustan Unilever, scoring 7.1 and 6.7 out of 10 respectively. All of the MNCs score higher on the Corporate Profile than the participating Indian-based companies. The parent companies of the former tend to publish a range of commitments, policies and reports, many of which apply in India; the latter tend to have more limited policies and disclosure of nutrition-related activities. Two companies score particularly poorly – Amul and Parle Products – they did not participate in the research process, published little or no information and received no points in several categories. Their scores and ranking may therefore only be partly representative of any efforts they are making to tackle India’s nutrition challenges.
Nestlé India scores better on the Corporate Profile of the India Index than its parent did on a global basis. The Corporate Profile scores on the India Spotlight Index of Hindustan Unilever and Coca-Cola India are broadly similar to their parent companies’ scores on the 2016 Global Index. PepsiCo India also performs better than its parent company did, but Mondelez India performs more poorly; the latter can be explained by the company’s more limited product portfolio in India and low levels of disclosure about its activities in India.
On the Product Profile, Mother Dairy ranked first, Hindustan Unilever second, Amul third and Britannia Industries fourth. The lowest ranking companies are PepsiCo India in eighth place and Mondelez India in ninth place. This is because a large proportion of PepsiCo’s revenues are generated by snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages and because Mondelez sells mainly confectionary.
Eight of the ten companies assessed (Britannia Industries, Mondelez India, Mother Dairy, Nestlé India, PepsiCo India, Parle Products, Coca-Cola India and Hindustan Unilever) make strategic commitments to grow their businesses by focusing on health and nutrition. In addition, the policies of six of these eight companies recognize that they have a role to play in tackling increasing levels of obesity and dietrelated chronic diseases in India.
The subsidiaries of global corporations adhere to the global health and nutrition policies and strategies of their parent companies. These include responsible marketing policies covering all consumers and children, employee health and wellness programs, maternity policies including facilities to support breastfeeding mothers and a commitment to labeling products according to Codex guidelines. The wide-ranging commitments in their strategies and policies result in high scores across most areas of the Index. Conversely, the Indian-based companies typically do not have formal strategies and have more poorly codified management procedures related to nutrition and poor disclosure. Disclosure of actions they are taking to improve their nutrition footprint tends to be incomplete.
All companies can do more to ensure that their healthy products are more affordable and accessible in India. As with the Global Index, Category C (Affordability and Accessibility) is one of the lowest scoring categories, with an average score of only 1.9 out of 9. Most companies do not seem to have considered the importance of ensuring that healthy products are affordable and accessible, particularly to low-income consumers, and do not appear to have developed any commitments or policies in this regard.
Category G (Stakeholder Engagement) is also a low scoring category, with an average score of 1.3 out of 10. Most companies do not disclose information about their membership or funding of industry organizations that lobby policymakers nor about their engagement with other stakeholders concerned about nutrition issues. The companies assessed for the Index demonstrate varying levels of stakeholder engagement. The overall picture, however, indicates that they need to be much more proactive in advancing dialogues with their key stakeholders on how they might improve their nutrition strategies and practices if goals to address India’s double burden of malnutrition are to be met.
Establishing a clear and transparent commitment to fortification is an essential first step and companies are to be lauded for this. But in reality, companies have a long way to go before they deliver on their commitments. Operationalizing the commitment in the context of a focused strategy is hard work and companies need to devote more resources to it. Only five of the companies assessed disclose a commitment to addressing undernutrition by fortifying appropriate products (and/or using fortified ingredients) and only two, Britannia Industries and Nestlé India, of these five companies disclose having undertaken comprehensive market research to inform their product fortification strategy.
Nestlé India leads the rank when it comes to addressing micronutrient deficiencies through product fortification, followed by Britannia Industries. Only Nestlé India and Britannia Industries have a structured approach to product fortification with relevant commitments and programs. They also engage in other non-commercial initiatives designed to disseminate fortified products to those who need them.
Despite some examples of leading practice, in particular, the oil fortification activities of Cargill, most companies still need to develop full-scale commercial product fortification programs. Similarly, in terms of philanthropic activity in this area, companies generally demonstrate an ad-hoc approach to supporting programs that deliver fortified products or educate undernourished consumers. There is a significant opportunity for the industry to work together and in partnership with other key actors to develop a large-scale joined-up approach to tackling undernutrition in India.
The comprehensive Product Profile study – the first of its kind to be published in India – demonstrates that, relative to the other companies included in the Index, Mother Dairy, Hindustan Unilever and Amul deliver the highest level of sales of products of high nutritional quality. Mother Dairy has a broad portfolio comprising nine categories of products, whose Health Star Ratings range from the maximum possible of five stars for its frozen fruit and vegetables to its butter, margarine and other dairy categories, which score an average of two stars or more. The company scores 5.6 on the Product Profile ranking. The average number of stars for Hindustan Unilever products within each category ranged from 0.5 out of 5 stars (the lowest score possible) for its liquid concentrates to 3.8 out of 5 stars for its soups. Its Product Profile score is 4.6. Amul’s sales-weighted portfolio has a rating of 2.2 out of 5 on average with an overall Product Profile score of 4.4.
PepsiCo India and Mondelez India rank lowest on the Product Profile study in eighth and ninth place respectively, indicating that their product portfolios are least healthy according to the Product Profile, which assessed the nutritional quality of companies’ sales.
Fortification is recognized as the most effective strategy to address micronutrient deficiencies. However, in India, only 2% to 5% of foods are believed to be fortified with the micronutrients lacking in many Indian’s diets. The foods that are fortified are mostly staples, such as dairy and wheat, fortified with vitamins A, D, C and iron among other micronutrients. Most companies assessed produce no or very few fortified packaged products, and often those which they do fortify are not healthy products. Cargill is the exception which has shown leadership by fortifying its oils voluntarily. Moreover, other than one or two examples of companies using salt fortified with iodine to make their products, most do not commit to exclusively using fortified ingredients such as wheat or milk.
However, the technical fortification standards for several commodities launched by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in October 2016 could provide the much-needed central leadership to scale up fortification and create a “level playing field” for companies. This major step taken by the government affords the perfect opportunity to the F&B industry to declare its support, and for companies to set bold, specific targets to build the market for fortified foods and to deliver fortified products to millions of consumers across India.
In consultations before the assessment of the marketing of breast-milk substitutes (BMS) was undertaken, in the summer of 2016, local experts noted that the Indian IMS Act is fully aligned with, and in some areas, more demanding than The Code. Moreover, they said it was unlikely to find many incidences of non-compliance. That was, in fact, the case. Public advertising of BMS products monitored appeared to be virtually non-existent, at least in Mumbai. Further, no point-of-sale promotions of BMS products were found in any of the ‘bricks and mortar’ retail establishments visited. Few printed informational or educational materials were found in clinics or shops, and company representatives appear to have little direct contact with women or healthcare workers. The labels of all but one product made for the Indian market complied with labeling regulations. The only products not to have compliant labels were seven parallel imports, i.e. products intended to be consumed in other countries. This is a credit to the strength of the IMS Act, or its diligent application by healthcare workers and vigilant monitoring by local stakeholders such as the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).
The study noted that some online retailers offer promotions and price discounts. However, such stores may not directly procure the products they sell from the manufacturers and may decide on promotions and discounts themselves, rather than such promotions being initiated by the manufacturers. Also, various marketing websites were found to invite mothers to “sign-up” to access information and engage in exchanges with other members. While there were no reports of non-compliance with the IMS Act by such marketing sites, they are potential routes through which companies can establish brand recognition and profile.
The Access to Nutrition Index rates food and beverage manufacturers´ nutrition-related policies, practices and disclosures worldwide on a recurring basis.
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