One in three people in the world today are undernourished or overweight. Obesity and diet-related chronic diseases, are global pandemics, affecting countries of all income levels. At the same time, undernutrition continues to affect millions of people globally. Given their global reach, food and beverage companies have a powerful role to play alongside governments, international organizations and civil society in helping to tackle this crisis and its grave human and economic consequences. As well as being a social responsibility, this is directly in the companies’ commercial and financial interests as consumers worldwide are increasingly demanding healthier foods from companies.
ATNI has gained widespread recognition as an independent benchmarking tool that works with industry, nutrition experts and civil society to measure companies’ contributions to improved nutrition against best practices standards and internationally agreed norms. Since the first Index, companies have increased their engagement with the research process. This shows a positive trend highlighting how the Index can enable the food and beverage industry to improve their policies and practices to help consumers around the globe eat better food. Other stakeholders use the Index as a tool to call on companies for action. Private sector data from the ATNI is used, for instance, in the Global Nutrition Report that is published on an annual basis, while investors in F&B companies are increasingly taking into consideration the ATNI rankings and company scorecards.
On balance, the outcomes of the second Access to Nutrition Index show some progress, but companies have a long way to go if they are to play their full part in tackling the global nutrition crisis. When considered together, the world’s 22 largest food and beverage manufacturers have improved their contribution to improving consumers’ diets. Some companies have given health and nutrition issues increased weight in their corporate strategies; some have made commitments to improve the nutritional quality of some of their products; some have introduced more healthy options and some have adopted and established reasonably comprehensive back-of-pack labels. Other areas show fewer signs of progress. Overall commitments to market responsibly to children showed no measurable improvement and although most companies have subscribed to global or regional self-regulatory pledges, these remain weak in several areas. Overall, no company scored more than 6.4 out of 10.
The top three companies in the 2016 Index are Unilever, Nestlé and Danone.
These three also led the Index in 2013. Although all companies still have a long way to go, Unilever, Nestlé and Danone have clearly embedded a commitment to addressing global nutrition challenges into their core business models; commitments are translated into practice and reported on publicly. This is commendable. It should be regarded as an example of best practice and as a guide to improvement for other companies. Unilever leads with regards to providing healthier products to consumers worldwide. The company has a strong NPS (Nutrient Profiling System) against which the global product portfolio is checked for levels of key nutrients. Nestlé stands out with a clear corporate nutrition strategy that is approved at the highest levels of the company and includes a comprehensive set of objectives that cover the reformulation of products to make them healthier, access to healthy foods and responsible marketing. Danone remains relatively strong in including nutrition in its business strategies as well as its processes. It leads for including affordability considerations in its product Research & Development (R&D) programs, and for stakeholder engagement. However, Danone dropped in the overall rankings mostly because the company’s nutrition targets for the next few years had not yet been published at the time of the research for this report.
Eight companies have improved their ranking, six have fallen, while five have remained the same and three were new additions to the 2016 Global Index.
Mars and FrieslandCampina have risen the most on the 2016 Global Index (Mars rose from 16th to 5th and FrieslandCampina rose from 19th to 8th). Both significantly improved disclosure regarding nutrition policies. Mars has invested in assessing the nutritional quality of its product portfolio and adopted several new nutrition related policies, while FrieslandCampina has adopted new responsible marketing policies and also reports on the healthiness of its product portfolio (using a strong NPS). Mondelez is a new entrant to this Global Index following its split with Kraft, and has performed relatively well.
Areas where companies have shown improvement since the 2013 Global Index are:
There is a clear difference in performance in the Index between companies that commit to apply their policies globally and across all products, and those companies whose commitments have a more limited scope.
Many companies do not apply consistent standards across all markets of operation. This indicates that many view improvement as only being necessary where regulations are in place or pressure exerted from civil society. Many companies, particularly those headquartered in the U.S. (including General Mills, Kraft, Heinz, Kellogg Company and ConAgra), seem systematically to apply lower or no standards and less responsible practices in unregulated markets or those with low levels of regulation. This is a cause for concern. Companies should help to tackle global nutrition challenges not because they are forced to by regulators (or the threat of regulatory action) but because they can make a substantial contribution to public health. The top performing companies on the Index demonstrate that making standards universally applicable does not hinder commercial success.
Most companies still do not systematically or structurally implement and report on their stated nutrition commitments. Across the industry significant improvements can be made in:
Undernutrition remains largely neglected by companies, few companies have made specific commitments with little translation into practice. Mars and Ajinomoto show leading practice in some areas, however despite the business challenges in reaching out to undernourished consumers, more needs to be done to ensure companies assume some responsibility for the massive challenges that many undernourished people face in accessing affordable healthy products. Although many companies have business expansion goals in emerging economies (19 out of the 22 companies generate more than 5% of their revenues from non-OECD countries), none have integrated undernutrition at a strategic level. Only four companies have initiatives to reformulate products for undernourished populations. This is particularly important for higher-risk developing markets among priority populations such as women of childbearing age and children under-two.
None of the policies of the four F&B companies and their two pharmaceutical sector competitors fully allign with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (The Code) or the many subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions adopted that reinforce the central calls made in The Code, despite it having been in place for over 30 years. Nestlé ranked first in the BMS sub-ranking and Mead Johnson ranked last. The pilot research studies carried out by Westat in Indonesia and Vietnam revealed widespread failings of marketing practices in these two major growing BMS markets.
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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