To perform well in this category, companies should:
Category B Nutrition ranking, based on equally-weighted Criteria B1 and B2 scores
Seventeen out of 22 companies express commitments to invest in R&D to improve the nutritional quality of products, two more than in 2016.
The financial investment in R&D is stable: The average percentage of global revenues spent remains at 1.3%. Although 15 companies tracked and reported their R&D investment in the last three years, only four define concrete future R&D targets. It is important that companies commit to follow recognized guidelines published by national or international bodies such as the WHO to ensure that their efforts to improve the healthiness of their product portfolio align with public health requirements. The number of companies that commit to follow recognized guidelines increased from nine in 2016 to 14 in 2018.
Compared to 2016, companies report to offer a higher percentage of products in their portfolio that meet the company’s healthy standard. In addition, they report having increased the introduction of new products meeting those standards.
Seven companies report that more than half of their products meet their own definition of healthy, five more than in 2016. The actual healthiness of companies’ product portfolios across nine countries was assessed independently using validated Health Star Rating (HSR) criteria in the Product Profile assessment.
The reported percentages of products that are suitable to be marketed to children in the U.S., EU and the rest of the world is low. Only two companies report that more than half of their products meet the company criteria for this in the U.S.; for the EU the figure is five; and for the rest of the world, four.
According to the WHO EURO criteria used in the Product Profile assessment, none of the companies offer more than 50% of products that meet such criteria.
Although not all products in companies’ portfolios are marketed to children, children are an important consumer group. Many categories (for example breakfast cereals, confectionery, dairy products, various soft drinks and sweet biscuits, snack bars and fruit snacks) are frequently consumed by children, regardless of whether children are the target group to which the products are marketed. Therefore, it is important for companies to try to meet these criteria for such categories or products.
No changes were reported at the brand level. As in 2016, 12 companies reported that more than half of their brands offer healthy choices for adults.
Limiting serving size is a strategy that can be used to improve a product’s health profile. With input from its Expert Group, ATNF has defined seven product categories in which serving size should be limited to support a healthier diet (confectionery, savory snacks, ice cream and four high-calorie soft drink categories). Nine of 20 relevant companies reported their performance in offering product serving sizes under specific calorie cut-offs, 3 of which seven did so for all relevant categories.
Companies’ transparency about the healthiness of their products has improved, as ten companies now disclose the percentage of products that meet their healthy criteria versus five in 2016. However, on a critical note, four of these ten companies do not publish their criteria for healthiness in full, which severely limits the meaningfulness of the information. Nestlé and Unilever disclose publicly the total number of new healthy product introductions, as well as its nutritional criteria, providing insight into the results of its work to innovate – a best practice that others should emulate. Transparency has also improved around the proportion of products meeting criteria for marketing to children, but remains low overall with 15 companies not disclosing any information of this sort.
Product formulation and reformulation should be driven by clear, valid and published definitions of which products are considered healthy, as described in the company’s NPS. Danone, FrieslandCampina and Unilever clearly link their healthy definitions and product (re) formulation targets to their NPSs. FrieslandCampina and Unilever commit to meet the nutritional criteria in their NPSs for 65% and 60%, respectively, of their products based on sales volume by 2020; however, Danone makes the clearest commitment.
Nestlé and Unilever achieve the highest scores on (re) formulation targets across a range of relevant product categories.
FrieslandCampina shows a new approach in its updated NPS regarding product (re)formulation targets to limit both added sugars and total calories. Whereas most companies define either added sugar or calorie targets, FrieslandCampina defines both types of targets for most of its products.
The majority of companies (16) define one or more targets to (re)formulate their products, but six companies – Ajinomoto, BRF, Kraft Heinz, Lactalis, Suntory, Tingyi – do not report any relevant targets.
Eleven companies define relevant targets to limit trans-fat from the most important industrial fat sources (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils), aligned with current WHO recommendations to limit trans-fat intake. NOTE
Six companies cover all of the relevant product categories with their trans-fat target, but only three companies do so with a clear global scope: Mars, Nestlé and Unilever. Several companies report commitments to have zero grams trans-fat indicated on the product labels. However, (re)formulation targets addressing trans-fat should not be related to the nutrient declaration on the product label. Instead, targets should be defined on a weight or calorie basis and should ensure the elimination of artificial trans-fats in product reformulation. Five companies define commitments that are not considered relevant or show no commitment at all.
Nestlé and PepsiCo are the only companies that have set at least one target for all relevant nutrients globally, although the targets to increase ‘positive nutrients’ are still in an early stage of development. None of the companies defined a full set of targets for all relevant nutrients across all product categories. In particular, targets to increase ‘positive nutrients’ (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains) are missing for the large majority of companies.
Compared to 2016, companies have increased their transparency by disclosing more information about their targets and the number of products meeting them.
Companies that are members of the IFBA make commitments on product innovation and (re)formulation within the framework of the industry association, which are published on the IFBA website.8 These commitments are similar to the commitments expressed on companies’ own websites or in feedback to ATNF, but not defined the same in all cases.
Recommendations for improvement
The quality of company NPSs is very important across the ATNI methodology. Thirteen companies have currently implemented an NPS.
The total number of companies that have implemented an NPS (13) remained the same compared to 2016, but there were positive changes.
Several companies have updated their NPSs and the criteria related to them. For example, Unilever strengthened its ‘Highest Nutritional Standards’ in November 2016, and FrieslandCampina updated its ‘Global Nutritional Standards’ with stricter requirements in 2016.
Four companies – Campbell’s, Ferrero, General Mills and Kellogg – have implemented a pre-cursor to an NPS. These systems are not fully disclosed by the companies or were set up long ago without updating the nutritional criteria.
Kraft Heinz does not report having implemented an NPS, although H.J. Heinz Holding Corporation was credited in 2016 for having implemented a precursor to an NPS. Kraft Heinz is encouraged to ensure that previous performance before the merger is maintained and improved upon across the newly-formed company.
Recommendations for improvement