World’s Largest Food Companies Urged to Step up Efforts on Global Nutrition Crisis

Global Access to Nutrition Index ranks 22 largest companies on
contributions to tackling obesity and undernutrition; Unilever leads
2016 ranking

UTRECHT, The Netherlands–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The world’s largest food and beverage companies have made some progress
towards improving consumers’ diets but they still have a long way to go
if they are to play their full part in tackling the mounting global
nutrition crisis, a new report said today.

With one in three people worldwide either overweight or undernourished,
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 the spiralling ‘double burden’ of
undernutrition and obesity. They can do this by, among other things,
producing healthier foods, making them more affordable and accessible
and influencing consumer choice by marketing and labeling their products
more responsibly.

“Given the global reach of their products, food and beverage companies
have a critical role to play in helping to tackle the growing global
health crisis caused by poor nutrition,” said 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 Global Access to Nutrition Index was first published in 2013 for use
as an independent benchmarking tool by investors, health advocates and
companies themselves. The 2016 Global Index is the second to be
released. It evaluated each of the companies 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 behaviour, through nutrition
    information, food marketing and labeling

The 2016 Global Access to Nutrition Index also assessed the policies and
practices of the world’s largest baby food manufacturers to gauge
whether their marketing of breast-milk substitutes (BMS) aligns with
international standards.

Key Findings of the 2016 Access to Nutrition Index

The 2016 Index concluded that, while some companies have taken positive
steps since the last Index, the industry as a whole is moving far too
slowly. Scored out of ten on their nutrition-related commitments,
practices and levels of disclosure, no company achieved a score of more
than 6.4.

The leading companies – Unilever, Nestlé and Danone – have done more
than the others to integrate nutrition into their business models, to
produce healthier products with, for example, lower levels of sugar,
salt and fats and higher levels of healthier ingredients, and to ensure
affordable pricing and wider distribution of healthier products in
emerging markets.

Mars and FrieslandCampina have risen the most on the 2016 Index. Mars
rose from 16th to 5th and FrieslandCampina from 19th
to 8th from their 2013 positions.

The report recommended that companies:

  • Help tackle obesity by adopting stronger nutrition strategies and
    policies, using robust systems to measure the nutritional value of all
    of 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.
  • Address the serious problem of undernutrition in lower-income
    countries, in spite of the challenges presented by these fragile
    markets. 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 and 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 such as women
    of childbearing age and young children.
  • Apply strong policies that cover all key nutrition practices globally,
    not just in their home countries, to ensure consumers in emerging
    markets are treated equally.
  • Companies producing baby foods should take steps to ensure they are
    fully compliant with the World Health Organization’s International
    Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (The Code) and subsequent
    guidelines so they do not negatively impact optimal infant nutrition
    by undermining breastfeeding.

Baby food manufacturer findings

The separate sub-ranking of six of the world’s largest baby food
manufacturers evaluated how well these companies’ policies align with
The Code and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions – and how
effectively their management systems implement their policies. This is
of particular relevance in poorer countries where breastmilk can be a
lifesaver for vulnerable infants.

The companies assessed for the BMS sub-ranking included four of the food
companies evaluated in the global Access to Nutrition Index – Danone,
FrieslandCampina, Heinz and Nestlé – and two pharmaceutical sector
companies, Abbott and Mead Johnson. The research found that none of the
six companies’ policies assessed for this sub-ranking was fully
compliant with The Code although there was significant variation in
their performance. Research carried out for ATNI in Vietnam and
Indonesia in the summer of 2015 by Westat, an independent research
organization, revealed numerous examples of non-compliance with
international standards in both countries, suggesting that all
companies’ policies and management systems need to be overhauled.

ATNI’s report recommended that:

  • Baby food companies should apply their BMS marketing policies
    consistently and globally, not just in ´higher-risk countries´, which
    at present tends to be the case. Companies should also commit to
    upholding their own policies in markets where local regulation is
    weaker than company policy.
  • In line with updated definitions of products that should be considered
    BMS, issued by WHO, companies’ BMS marketing policies should be
    extended to apply to all types of breast-milk substitutes, including
    infant formula, complementary foods intended for infants under six
    months of age, follow-on milk and growing-up milk.
  • The ATNI report also said stronger local regulation is needed in many
    countries to give legal effect to The Code, creating a ´level playing
    field´ for all companies, local and multinational.

How the Index works

The research for the 2016 Global Access to Nutrition Index was provided
by Sustainalytics, a leading global environmental, social and governance
research and ratings firm. It combined publicly available company
information with its own analysis and information provided by the
companies. ATNF welcomed the increased level of engagement from the food
and beverage industry: 17 of the 22 companies actively engaged with the
research for the 2016 Index.

The ATNI methodology used to assess the companies is largely based on
international standards and guidelines. After the first Index in 2013 it
was extended and refined, drawing on extensive consultations with
companies, nutrition experts, investors, policy-makers and civil
society. As a result, for the 2016 Index, companies were evaluated
against a more rigorous and comprehensive set of metrics than in the
previous Index.

“The Global Access to Nutrition Index is increasingly being embraced as
an accountability tool by companies and investors to measure – and
ultimately improve – their performance on promoting better nutrition,”
said Keith Bezanson, Chair of the Board of the Access to Nutrition
Foundation.

Notes to Editors

Key nutrition statistics:

  • Almost 2 billion people are now overweight – 600 million of them obese
    – with major health implications such as heart disease, diabetes and
    some cancers.
  • Almost 800 million people do not have enough to eat and another 2
    billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies or ´hidden
    hunger’.
  • Obesity costs the global economy approximately US$2 trillion annually,
    nearly 3 % of global GDP
  • The global packaged food industry grew to US$2.4 trillion in 2014,
    growing ten times faster in emerging and lower-income markets than in
    high-income countries.

About the Access to Nutrition Index

The Access to Nutrition Index is published by the Access to Nutrition
Foundation (ATNF), an independent non-profit organisation based in the
Netherlands dedicated to objectively assessing and improving the
contribution the private sector makes to addressing global nutrition
challenges. The primary objective of ATNF is to publish, on a regular
basis, a set of Indexes that assess and rates major food and beverage
manufacturers’ nutrition policies, practices and disclosure. The Index
methodology is developed with input from a wide range of global
stakeholders including the World Health Organisation, academia, civil
society organizations, industry and investors. Since the launch in 2013,
more than 40 investment firms have become signatories to the ATNI
Investor Statement, with over $3 trillion assets under management. The
Index is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome
Trust and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Overall ranking

While the methodology has been strengthened since the first Index in
2013, the same weight is assigned to each Category as in 2013, to
facilitate comparison.

The ranking assesses companies across seven different categories:

A

 

Governance (12.5%) Corporate strategy, management and governance

B

Products (25%) Formulation of appropriate products

C

Accessibility (20%) Delivering affordable, accessible products

D

Marketing (20%) Responsible marketing policies, compliance (and
spending)

E

Lifestyles (2.5%) Supporting healthy diets and active lifestyles

F

Labeling (15%) Product labeling and use of health and nutrition
claims

G

Engagement (5%) Influencing governments and policymakers and
stakeholder engagement

Contacts

Access to Nutrition Index
Helen Palmer, +44 (0)7912 242394
or
Gillian
Gallanagh, +44 (0)7790 588295
ATNI@webershandwick.com

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