Food and beverage manufacturers can help consumers in the United States to make healthier choices by improving the nutritional quality of the foods and beverages they make. This category addresses their efforts to achieve this through research and development (R&D), new product formulation and reformulation of existing products. It tests whether companies can identify which products are healthy according to their own definition, which products are suitable to be marketed to children and whether healthy options are available across their portfolios. It also assesses the quality of the Nutrient Profiling Systems (NPS) that companies use to guide their product formulation efforts, if they employ one. Category B consists of two criteria:
B1 Product Formulation
B2 Nutrient Profiling
All companies need to strengthen their commitments and performance on product reformulation. Three companies do not define any targets to reduce salt, sugar or saturated fat, nor to increase ingredients such as fruits and vegetables. None have a comprehensive set of targets covering all U.S. products. It is critical that all companies publish SMART targets (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) for all relevant nutrients across all product categories.
While six companies have adopted an NPS, only four of them have implemented a ‘full’ system that calculates overall scores or ratings of the nutritional quality of its products, taking into account product category-specific criteria. Two of the six have adopted more limited systems that assess whether levels of specific nutrients are above or below a general threshold. In order for consumers, other stakeholders and the companies themselves to be clear about which products are healthy products, all companies must use a well-designed NPS that aligns with internationally accepted systems such as the Health Star Rating (HSR) used in the Product Profile.
Three out of seven companies that provided relevant information overestimated their proportion of healthy products by more than 10% compared to the independent analysis of the Product Profile. All companies should review how the Product Profile results compare to their own figures for ‘healthy’ products, and review and adapt the metrics they use to define healthy products as needed.
None of the companies publish a commitment to addressing the copy-cat issue - making the same products, or products with very similar branding and ‘look and feel’, sold on the wider U.S. market, to the same nutritional standards as those sold under the Smart Snacks in School regulation. However, Nestlé and Unilever provided evidence to have such a commitment and apply it in practice. All companies that sell products under the Smart Snacks in School regulation should make this commitment and thereby contribute to supporting better diets among children.
Companies are on the whole not very transparent about how many healthy products they make or sell in the United States, or about their progress in meeting their reformulation targets. All companies should publish more information of this nature to provide investors, consumers and all stakeholders with a clearer picture of their contribution to addressing America’s nutrition challenges.
The Access to Nutrition Index rates food and beverage manufacturers´ nutrition-related policies, practices and disclosures worldwide on a recurring basis.
Access to Nutrition Foundation
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