It’s no secret much of the world has a problem with either obesity or undernutrition. While many of the world’s biggest players in the food and beverage industry have made strides in improving consumers’ diets by reformulating recipes, swapping out ingredients and launching general wellness programs, a new report shows the industry still has a long way to go.
The Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) is based on the premise that companies can, and must, work alongside governments, international organizations and civil society to address undernutrition and obesity. Analysts say this can be done by producing healthier foods, making them more affordable and accessible and influencing consumer choice by marketing and labeling products more responsibly.
“Given the global reach of their products, food and beverage companies have a critical role to play in tackling the growing global health crisis caused by poor nutrition,” says Inge Kauer, executive director of the Access to Nutrition Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that develops and publishes the index. “While companies have a social responsibility to tackle global nutrition challenges, doing so also presents a business opportunity as consumers worldwide demand healthier foods.”
The recently released 2016 Global Index evaluated each of the companies based on its:
-Corporate strategy, management and governance related to nutrition
-Formulation and delivery of appropriate, affordable and accessible products
-Positive influence on consumer choice and behavior through nutrition information, food marketing and labeling.
The index concluded that, while some companies have taken positive steps, the industry as a whole is moving far too slowly. Out of a possible score of 10, no company achieved more than 6.4 for their nutrition-related commitments, practices and levels of disclosure.
Unilever, Nestlé and Danone lead the list, having done more than the others to integrate nutrition into their business models, produce healthier products and ensure affordable pricing and wider distribution of healthier products in emerging markets.
Mars and FrieslandCampina are the most improved according to the index. Mars rose from 16th to 5th place and FrieslandCampina from 19th to 8th since the 2013 index.
The report recommended companies adopt stronger nutrition strategies and policies, using robust systems to measure the nutritional value of all their products, tracking the proportion of revenues generated by healthier products, strengthening food labeling to help consumers identify healthier options and marketing more responsibly to children.
It also advises addressing the serious problem of undernutrition in lower-income countries. As many companies have goals to expand their businesses in emerging economies, they must work with governments and civil society to find innovative ways to provide affordable, accessible, nutritious foods for poorer people. Only four of the companies were found to be producing specially fortified products targeting undernourished consumer groups in low-income countries.