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Category B - Undernutrition: Products

25% of the total undernutrition score


To perform well on undernutrition in Category B, companies should:

  • Set targets to increase their Research and development (R&D) efforts to develop or introduce fortified products or products inherently high in micronutrients, and commit to increase the number or volume of fortified foods available to undernourished populations.
  • Commit to align their approach to fortification with international guidance, to seek to use ingredients with high inherent levels of micronutrients and to fortify only products of high nutritional quality.
  • Provide evidence of having introduced new products commercially and of funding non-commercial programs, aiming to deliver appropriately fortified products to priority populations in priority countries.
  • Disclose commitments and an explanation of what they have done to increase the number or volume of fortified foods available to undernourished populations, through both commercial and non-commercial activities.
Group 90 Created with Sketch. Governance A Lifestyles E Engagement G 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Labeling F Accessibility C Marketing D Products B 3,1 2,5 2016 2018

The average scores for Category B Undernutrition in 2018 and 2016

What are the main changes in Category B compared to 2016?
  • Progress has been made compared to 2016 as more companies make commitments to develop fortified or other appropriate products to address undernutrition. However, the quality of these commitments falls well below the expectations they raise through their commitments to address undernutrition. The average score increased from 2.5 to 3.1 points.
  • Danone leads the ranking in Category B – Undernutrition as it makes a number of relevant commitments, demonstrates it is developing or already offers a range of products fighting undernutrition and discloses many of its commitments publicly. It is followed by Unilever, FrieslandCampina, PepsiCo, Mondelez and Nestlé.
What evidence is there that companies are developing more appropriately fortified and/or inherently healthy products to tackle undernutrition in priority developing countries, among the population groups most at risk?

Almost the same group of companies that commit to addressing undernutrition also commit to increase the volume and/or number of fortified products or products to address micronutrient deficiencies, showing a good level of consistency in their reporting. In 2016, Ajinomoto, Danone, Grupo Bimbo, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever expressed this commitment; in 2018 Arla, Coca-Cola, FrieslandCampina, Kellogg and Mondelez now make this commitment as well. Grupo Bimbo has not restated its commitment in 2018. To ensure that food fortification delivers clear public health benefits, and is safe and appropriate, clear international guidance is provided in Codex guideline CAC/GL 9-1987 and WHO/FAO guidelines  . The number of companies that commit to develop products according to these international guidelines remains very low. Only four of 18 companies, Danone, Mars, Mondelez, Unilever, commit clearly to follow these principles, and only Danone and Mars disclose this commitment publicly. Danone published its comprehensive fortification policy in 2017, containing this commitment.

It is very important that foods that are fortified are healthy and inherently of high quality in addressing undernutrition. Just one third of the companies commit to fortify only products of high underlying quality: Danone, FrieslandCampina, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé. Mars and Mondelez produce a large proportion of energy-dense confectionery products and both express explicit commitments to not fortify such products with essential nutrients. Danone, Mars and Nestlé are the only companies that disclose their commitment.

It is not always necessary to fortify food products with added micronutrients. Micronutrient deficiencies may be addressed as well through ingredients that are naturally high in the micronutrient(s) of public health interest or through (bio) fortified staple foods. Nestlé was the only company in 2016 to commit to seeking to use such ingredients, including fortified staple foods, but in 2018 Danone, FrieslandCampina and Kellogg make this commitment as well.

Twelve companies provided evidence of investments in research or other areas of the business to develop solutions to undernutrition, twice the number that shared such evidence in 2016. See Box 6 for Nestlé’s leading practice example related to biofortification approaches.

Unilever reports an example of governmental research cooperation, with the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam, on the ‘National Strategies for Food Fortification’, a GAIN-funded project with the aim to introduce fortified products to address vitamin A deficiency. In addition, Unilever has implemented an evaluation tool, the ‘Eco Design Tool’, to assess early on in innovation projects the potential impact on healthier products and addressing undernutrition. This is good practice and should include external expert evaluation, for example by soliciting feedback from the company’s formal undernutrition expert panel.

Eleven companies report targeting undernutrition in specific populations by developing products in the last two years, or through funding non-commercial programs, non-confidentially

Recommendations for improvement

  • Commitments to develop and introduce new products to fight undernutrition are necessary

To be credible and consistent, companies that commit to address undernutrition should also invest in developing and introducing new products, and to increase the volume of products sold or used.

  • Implementation of tools to evaluate new innovation projects that aim to address undernutrition

Like Unilever, companies are encouraged to implement a tool or approach to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of new initiatives that aim to address undernutrition early on in the process, ideally soliciting input from external experts. This applies both for commercial and philanthropic initiatives.

  • Companies should express clearly that they will follow international guidelines for fortifying food and only fortify products of high underlying quality

All companies that address undernutrition through fortifying products should clearly and unequivocally state that they follow Codex and/or WHO/FAO fortification guidelines, and only fortify products of high underlying quality.

  • More product formulation activities that focus on women of child-bearing age and children under two are needed

Most companies focus their programs and initiatives on school-age children or children older than two. More well-designed products and initiatives are needed to address undernutrition in women of child-bearing age and children under two.

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