U.S. Spotlight Index

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U.S. Spotlight Index

FAQ

Why was the U.S. Spotlight Index established?

The U.S. Spotlight Index is designed to provide a valuable tool to stakeholders to track major food and beverage manufacturers’ responses to important nutrition and food industry trends in the United States. 

What is the Access to Nutrition Foundation?

The Access to Nutrition Foundation is an independent non-profit organization based in the Netherlands. We work to objectively assess and improve the contribution the private sector makes to addressing global nutrition challenges. We have previously released three Global Access to Nutrition Indices and one India Access to Nutrition Index.

How, if at all, are the companies involved in your evaluation process?

It is important that we have complete and correct company data, so we work with the companies on data collection. We compile public documents and then give the companies an opportunity to review the compilation and provide additional information. We also give companies an opportunity to review product lists and corresponding nutrition criteria and provide us with corrections and missing information. Companies also have an opportunity to review their score cards, which outline areas of strength and room for improvement.

Has ATNI received financial contributions from industry for the development of the Index?

No. ATNI has a strict policy against accepting any financial contributions from companies or organizations that are part of the food and beverage industry. ATNI’s conflict of interest policy is posted on its website.

How does ATNI’s scoring work? Is it absolute or relative?

Companies are scored on an absolute scale from 0 to 10 using a system that rewards good practices rather than penalizing poor ones. A score of 0 indicates that no evidence was found for any nutrition-related commitments or practices. A score of 10 signifies best practice as determined by consensus judgments against established international codes and guidelines and other norms set out in the ATNI assessment methodology. 

 

What value does this Index add beyond information that is already in the public domain?

The Access to Nutrition is currently the only independent means of comparing companies to each other on their performance on delivering better access to nutrition through all relevant business functions. The U.S. Spotlight Index assessment is based on international and national guidelines and experts’ guidance. Companies are assessed not only on publicly available information but also on information not in the public domain that was obtained through direct engagement with them.

How does ATNI determine which foods are healthy?

ATNF assesses the healthiness of companies’ portfolios using the Product Profile. The nutritional quality of the companies’ products has been analysed by an independent research organization. While there is currently no universally accepted system for determining the nutritional quality of products, and therefore no one international standard for what can be considered a “healthy” product, ATNF has used two well-verified, independently developed nutrient profiling systems - the Health Star Rating System (HSR) and the WHO Euro model. These models were selected after careful consideration and the advice of the Expert Group. 

Within the Corporate Profile, it also assessed whether companies’ use a good quality Nutrient Profiling System that analyzes a company’s products according to nutritional make-up, to guide efforts to reformulate products and develop new healthy products. This aspect of the Index evaluates whether companies can identify which products are healthy (using to their own definition), which products they identify as suitable for marketing to children and whether healthy options are available across their portfolios.

Is this an investable index?

While ATNI is not intended to be an investable index, it does have the support of both investment managers and large institutional asset owners from around the world. ATNI has produced an Investor Statement in support of the Index, and its current signatories collectively manage over $5 trillion. ATNI is designed to be of value to them by providing insights into companies’ performance on nutrition issues which can be integrated into their financial analyses or used as a basis for engagements with companies on these critical issues.

How can you compare these companies to each other when their product portfolios are so vastly different?

ATNI aims to evaluate the contribution all of the companies are making to improving consumers’ access to nutrition. This is done by evaluating their efforts on improving their product portfolio, how they support consumers in understanding what comprises a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, how they label their products, how they present them in marketing materials, whether they offer a wide choice of products in varying sizes, and how they engage with governments and policymakers. Companies can improve their nutrition-related practices in all of these areas regardless of the composition of their product portfolios.

We are confident that the methodology used provides both a common platform through which to evaluate companies as well as being flexible enough to accommodate different business models and product portfolios. 

Does ATNI address issues such as companies' use of genetically modified organisms, impact on water and the environment, sourcing practices, and labor practices?

  • In the first version of the Index, ATNI confined its scope to those issues that are most important to improving access to nutrition.
  • As such, ATNI does not evaluate companies on other important ways in which they  may have a social and/or environmental impact. Other ratings address some of these issues, such as Oxfam's Behind the Brands Scorecard, which reviews the social and environmental impacts that ten large food and beverage companies are having on the food supply chain.

 

How has ATNI assessed the nutritional quality of companies’ products?

Two nutrient profiling systems were selected that met the qualitative criteria developed by ATNF’s Expert Group and based an extensive analysis of a very large number of NPS in existence, by Professor Mike Rayner for the WHO.

The criteria were that the systems must be: developed with appropriate stakeholder consultation; cover the majority of categories of processed food and beverage products; take account of both positive and negative nutrients; not designed solely to address school foods, given requirement to assess foods on the general market; well-validated with results published in the peer-reviewed literature demonstrating that the models produce internally consistent classifications of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods, consistent with general nutrition principles; enable differentiation of nutritional quality within and between categories; algorithm in the public domain so as to be able to access and apply it.

The Australian Health Star Rating nutrient profiling system was used to determine how healthy each product is. Products are rated between 0.5 stars (least healthy) to 5 stars (most healthy). 

The WHO Regional Office for Europe Nutrient Profile Model (WHO EURO) was used to identify which products are suitable to be marketed to children.

How can some companies with unhealthy product portfolios score so well on ATNI?

ATNF evaluates the contribution all companies are making to improving consumers’ access to nutritious foods around the world. This is determined both by efforts that companies have undertaken to improve the nutritional quality of their product portfolios and the efforts they make in many other aspects of their businesses, such as how they support consumers in understanding what comprises a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, how they label their products, how they present their products in marketing materials, offering a wide choice of products in varying sizes, and how they engage with governments and policymakers. Thus if a company with a seemingly less healthy portfolio receives a higher overall score on the ATNI, it is due to strong performance in categories other than Category B (which looks only at their products). We have also introduced to this Index for the first time the Product Profile, undertaken by independent researchers, which assesses how healthy companies’ products actually are. Stakeholders can put the Index scores and ranks side-by-side with the Product Profile results and see more clearly how the companies’ commitments, policies and disclosure compare to the actual nutritional quality of their portfolios.

Could companies elect whether to be included in the Index?

Companies did not have a choice whether to be included in ATNI. Companies also could not pay to be evaluated. However, companies had the option not to take part in the engagement phase of the research. For companies that chose not to participate, their evaluation was based solely on publicly available information.

How is the Access to Nutrition Index used?

The results of ATNI allow for comparison of company performance on delivering better access to nutrition as measured against international guidelines and expert guidance.

  • Companies (including both those ranked and not ranked by ATNI) may use this information to benchmark their performance against peers or to help guide their agenda for nutrition activities.
  • Investors may use this information to guide their engagement with companies and/or investment decisions.
  • Norm-setting bodies may use this information as an input into guideline development, including the identification of areas which currently lack such guidance.
  • Policymakers may use this information to identify areas in need of industry-wide improvement which may be amenable to regulatory intervention.
  • Civil society organizations may use this information to guide their advocacy efforts.
  • Academics may use this information to identify areas in need of further research.
  • Media organizations may use this information to draw attention to priority, or otherwise under-recognized, issues.

 

Improving nutrition for all

The Access to Nutrition Index rates food and beverage manufacturers´ nutrition-related policies, practices and disclosures worldwide on a recurring basis.

Contact

Access to Nutrition Foundation
Arthur van Schendelstraat 650
3511 MJ Utrecht
The Netherlands
+31 (0)30 410 09 16

info@accesstonutrition.org

Funders

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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