The 2018 Index shows the world’s biggest F&B companies have stepped up their efforts to encourage better diets, mostly through new and updated nutrition strategies and policies, improved commitments on affordability and accessibility, better performance on nutrition labeling and health and nutrition claims, and more disclosure of information across categories. Nevertheless, ATNF has serious concerns about the healthiness of the world’s largest global F&B manufacturers’ product portfolios.
Although these companies state that they support breastfeeding to some degree, a substantial proportion of their revenues and profits depend on ever-increasing sales of their products, which are substitutes for breastfeeding. They therefore have strong incentives to market these products pervasively and persuasively – which the Index shows they continue to do.
Three companies have made significant improvements in aligning their BMS marketing policies and management systems with The Code. Danone improved both its BMS marketing policy and management systems following the publication of the 2016 Index, and now ranks first in the 2018 BMS Marketing sub-ranking, overtaking Nestlé which slipped to second place. Danone extended its policy in relation to infant formula to include low-risk countries and committed to follow its own policy in countries where the regulations are weaker than its policy. Abbott has also made significant improvements to both its policy and management systems, moving up from fifth to third place in this subranking. Since being acquired by RB, MJN shared documents with ATNI for this Index (which it did not do previously), resulting in a better score.
ATNI undertook two in-country assessments for the 2018 Global Index. In Thailand and Nigeria, many marketing practices were found to not comply with the recommendations of The Code and/or local regulations. This illustrates that, in some cases, the management systems of companies are not being applied effectively. Meanwhile, in other cases, corporate policies do not encompass all the recommendations of The Code, nor all of the products within The Code’s scope.
All four companies rated in the BMS Marketing sub-ranking in Thailand were found to have a low level of compliance (where 2,807 incidences of non-compliance were identified in total). Many fewer instances of non-compliance (130) were found in Nigeria, where local regulation at the time of the study was stricter than that in Thailand. In both markets, the two most extensive forms of marketing identified were:
STRATEGIC NUTRITION COMMITMENTS
The operating principles embodied in Nestlé’s ‘Creating Shared Value’ strategy include a comprehensive set of nutrition policies covering all areas that the ATNI methodology assesses. The company has defined 15 measurable 2020 nutrition-related commitments against which it reports progress. Nestlé links all of these commitments to the relevant SDGs.
TRANSPARANT PRODUCT REFORMULATION TARGET
Danone, FrieslandCampina and Unilever meet best practice by publishing, in full, the criteria they use to determine whether their products are healthy, and link product reformulation targets to these definitions in a transparent way. Danone makes the clearest commitment: 100% of its products will meet its ‘Nutritional Target 2020’ criteria by 2020.
POSITIVE NUTRIENTS TARGET EXAMPLES
Nestlé has made specific, clear, measurable and time-bound (2017-2020) commitments to “add at least 750 million portions of vegetables, 300 million portions of fiber-rich grains, pulses and bran, and more nuts and seeds to our products.” However, the company has yet to specify concrete product reformulation targets.
PepsiCo states a similar commitment to “Increase positive nutrition— like whole grains, fruits & vegetables, dairy, protein and hydration— by expanding our portfolio containing one or more of these ingredients.”
AFFORDABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY
Grupo Bimbo’s global strategy for health and wellness is titled ‘A Sustainable Way.’ One of the focuses is the accessibility and affordability of healthy products to all consumers, based on the company’s own definition of healthy. This is guided by the company’s ambition to bring its products with improved nutrients closer to consumers.
RESPONSIBLE MARKETING POLICIES
Danone not only makes commitments that are fully aligned with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Framework, but it also sets additional principles regarding marketing to all consumers that go beyond it. The company is transparant by publishing its commitments and compliance auditing results.
Danone and Mars are the only two companies that appoint an independent party to audit their marketing activities complementary to industry association auditing and both for marketing to all consumers and marketing to children.
Arla is the only company that pledges to market only healthy products to children under age 18 using an audience threshold of 30%.
TARGETING PRIORITY POPULATIONS
Ajinomoto states its intention to address undernutrition through the recently founded Ajinomoto Foundation, which will take noncommercial approaches to meeting undernutrition challenges. It demonstrates best practice by linking its efforts to SDG 2, with a focus on improving maternal and child nutrition.
FrieslandCampina demonstrates best practice by selecting high-priority countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia and Myanmar to pilot new initiatives to address undernutrition.
Mars commits to provide back-of-pack information on all key nutrients assessed by the Index globally: Energy/calories, protein, total carbohydrates, total or added/free sugars, trans-fat, total fat, saturated fat, dietary fiber and sodium/salt. In addition, the company commits to provide percentages of guideline daily amounts (GDAs) extensively on the back of packs and for calories on the front of packs, as well as comprehensive serving size information.
FrieslandCampina defined an objective to include the reference intake guidance or GDA energy icon on 100% of relevant consumer packaging by 2020. The company publishes performance against this objective on its corporate website, showing annual progress since 2015.
EMPLOYEE AND CONSUMER HEALTH
PepsiCo improved most in promoting healthy employees with a comprehensive program, independent monitoring and a focus on health and business outcomes.
Nestlé demonstrates leading practice in supporting breastfeeding mothers through a set of comprehensive global commitments.
Mondelez and PepsiCo show leadership by funding only healthy eating and lifestyle programs set up and run by third-parties.
TRANSPARENT LOBBYING AND NUTRITION STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT
Mars and PepsiCo show leading practice by publishing statements on the topics on which they actively lobby.
Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever show leading practice on stakeholder engagement to develop their nutrition policies and programs.
UNDERNUTRITION COMMITMENTS AND STRATAGIES
Unilever no longer has an independent, philanthropic arm of the business. It now integrates its commercial and philanthropic efforts to address undernutrition and a wider range of sustainability goals into commercial category strategies. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) is the central business strategy to address these goals, which mirrors the SDGs. The company reports that its USLP brands grow faster than the rest of the company.
UNDERNUTRITION ACCESSIBILITY, AFFORDABILITY AND MARKETING
Unilever describes two programs designed to increase the accessibility of products to address undernutrition: Project Zeinab in Egypt and the Gbemiga Programme in Nigeria. In both cases, Unilever works with external organizations and combines a focus on undernutrition with other important aspects that are part of its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan strategy. It does this by making local women entrepreneurs and ambassadors for nutrition.
FrieslandCampina provides several examples of improving affordability in Nigeria and other high-priority countries. In addition, the company provides evidence of working with behavioral specialists and using multiple communication channels to reach undernourished consumers through specific marketing strategies.
ATNI sees many opportunities to develop its work and amplify its impact. For the next Global Index, we intend to streamline the methodology to reduce the time required from companies to provide input to the research process. We will also look to utilize more independently generated research and/or verify data submitted by companies, similar to the approach used for the Product Profile. This could include, for instance, product pricing data and marketing expenditure or in-store marketing practices. We also aim to develop ways to clearly track companies’ progress against their stated targets over time. Regarding undernutrition, ATNF will increase the focus on addressing undernutrition commercially in future Indexes.
ATNI will also continue to commission and publish incountry assessments on an ongoing basis. In the future we also hope to be able to incorporate the findings of NetCode based studies of BMS marketing conducted by others. We see opportunities to expand our assessment of baby food companies by, for example, developing an NPS for complementary foods and/or commissioning or utilizing studies done by other organizations relating to the marketing of baby foods. There is also potential to broaden the scope of assessment of companies’ contributions to infant and young child nutrition and/or supporting breastfeeding more broadly.
This report sets out the results of the first ever multi-country Product Profile study published. It demonstrates the great value of such studies in providing a comprehensive picture of the nutritional quality of packaged foods that major companies sell in markets around the world. In the future, we will consider the feasibility of combining the Product Profile scores with the Corporate Profile scores to generate a combined score. In addition, we will explore integrating the Product Profile assessment into the Corporate Profile assessment to address the current limitation of depending on a company’s own definition of healthy products.
The accuracy of future Product Profiles would be greatly improved if all Index companies were to provide their full product lists and nutrition content information. Combining sales figures for individual products would generate much more accurate sales-weighted figures but would also add complexity. Again, companies could provide these figures (although this information is clearly highly commercially sensitive), or the data could be purchased from commercial data providers (however, it is very expensive).
ATNI will work with The George Institute – and would welcome input from others – on improving future Product Profiles. Factoring in serving size, for example, would be a useful additional analytical tool, as would looking at the relative pricing of healthier versus less healthy products and the marketing spending on both types of products.