Areas of strength
- In the Global Index, Ajinomoto ranks fifteenth, which is an improvement on its previous rank of seventeenth in the 2013 Global Index.
- Ajinomoto has identified both overnutrition and undernutrition as key principles in its 2014-2016 medium-term management plan. The plan outlines the company’s aim to use products such as its umami seasonings to address health issues. The plan is globally applicable to all Ajinomoto operations.
- Compared to 2013, Ajinomoto has improved its nutrition R&D efforts. The company has disclosed targets to increase its nutrition R&D spending. However, it is unclear how Ajinomoto’s investment targets will continue beyond 2015. Ajinomoto also provides consolidated data on the number of new healthy products recently launched which is an improvement on 2013.
- Ajinomoto has demonstrated an increased focus on employee health and wellness. The company now has formal targets for employee participation in health and wellness programs. Programs offered to employees are more robust and address issues such as the importance of healthy diets, behavior and physical fitness.
- Ajinomoto focuses its undernutrition activities in higher-priority developing countries, primarily through its Ghana Nutrition Improvement Project. The project targets infant undernutrition through its Koko Plus product, a supplement that contains amino acids to fortify the nutrition of traditional infant weaning food. The project includes consideration of distribution, local production, marketing and consumer research of local needs. The project began pilot sales in FY2013 and experienced modest sales increases in FY2014. If effectively scaled up this project has the potential to have significant impact.
Areas for improvement
- Some key gaps remain since 2013. Ajinomoto lacks many key policies, such as those for product reformulation, healthy product affordability and accessibility, labeling, nutrient claims and lobbying.
- The company’s top-level management plan addresses several nutrition issues but does not cover other key areas such as labeling, marketing, distribution, or stakeholder engagement.
- Similar to 2013, Ajinomoto lacks a company definition of healthy products. The company also does not use a Nutrient Profiling System (NPS), nor does it have reformulation targets to reduce or increase levels of key nutrients.
- While Ajinomoto sells affordable products in developing countries and generally aims to make products that are accessible to all consumers, it still does not publish any affordability or accessibility commitments specifically related to healthy foods.
- Ajinomoto’s general commitment to advertising and marketing is narrow in scope and does not cover key issues for the responsible marketing of food to children or adults.
- Contrary to best practice, Ajinomoto does not publish formal nutrition labeling commitments. The company should codify formal commitments to provide information for all key nutrients on both the front and the back of product packaging.
- Ajinomoto could improve its disclosure on lobbying and stakeholder engagement. Although it publishes some examples of engagement initiatives, key elements remain undisclosed, such as nutrition-related lobbying positions, detail on how stakeholder engagement is structured and how stakeholder feedback impacts business decisions.