4 December 2023

A new nutrition Index in India is driving healthy competition among food and beverage (F&B) companies and new actions by investors and industry to improve the healthiness of portfolios.

On November 22nd, the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) launched the 2023 India Index enthusing companies firstly —  — towards healthier food portfolios.

The 2023 India Nutrition Index assessed the performance of the 20 largest Indian F&B manufacturers which together comprise 36% of total sales of packaged foods in the country. The findings of the 2023 India Index show that the influence of the F&B industry is growing. It has both the responsibility and the opportunity to further embed nutrition into its core business improving product offerings for consumers.

 

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Actioning the Index recommendations is critical in the current context and will facilitate F&B manufacturers to play a more vital part in addressing pressing nutrition-related concerns and ensuring that a healthy, affordable diet is available to all.

The Index’s Key Findings

The F&B industry plays an increasingly pivotal role in determining what consumers in India eat, the quality of their diets, and resulting health impacts.

Companies and products are evolving

Seven out of 20 indexed companies are on a journey of transformation, setting (re)formulation targets in line with dietary guidelines for sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. Half of them wield nutrition strategies, marking a commitment to a healthier tomorrow.

Our deep dive into 1,901 products from the top 20 companies shows six companies derive 40% or more of their sales from “healthier” products, at an aggregate level 24% of sales comes from products meeting the ‘healthy’ threshold.

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Our deep dive into 1,901 products from the top 20 companies shows six companies derive 40% or more of their sales from “healthier” products, at an aggregate level 24% of sales comes from products meeting the ‘healthy’ threshold.

Further Key Points

  •  There is no agreed definition of what constitutes a healthy food so companies resort to using their own definitions that are not necessarily aligned with each other or with (inter)nationally-recognized standards.
  • Seven out of 20 indexed companies report having at least one (re)formulation target in place to reduce nutrients of concern (e.g., sodium, saturated fat, sugar) in their portfolio and half of the companies have a nutrition strategy in place.
  • Seven companies have a publicly available policy on responsible marketing to children.

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  • Five companies show evidence of having clearly defined workforce nutrition programs in place, of which two companies clearly include measurable targets.
  • Seven out of 20 companies were found to have a responsible advocacy policy in place.
  • The findings of the 2023 India Index show that the F&B industry has significant opportunity to improve its product offerings making them healthier and more affordable for all consumers in India.
  •  Five institutional investors and shareholders of food companies in India have now signed up to nutrition frameworks such as the Investor Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health as part of their responsible investment strategies.

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The report by ATNI initiated multiple exchanges with and between companies asking how top scorers achieved better results and what good practices look like. There is a growing recognition that food portfolios can be adopted by the companies to provide better nutrition to the consumers.

Since the report launch, ATNI met with 10 of the indexed companies via one-on-one exchanges to discuss the results of the Index. These discussions revealed that there is a desire to improve company scores on the index reflective of their efforts to provide affordable healthy food to consumers in India.

 

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Mr. Srideep M Kesavan, CEO, Heritage Foods Ltd. notes:

“It is undeniable that sustainable growth of the Indian economy requires significant improvement in the nutrition value of the food we eat. The ATNI index scores were an eye opener for us at Heritage Foods Ltd. Though 52% of our product portfolio was rated as relatively ‘healthier’, we see it as glass half-empty and are pushed to do better. The index also opened our eyes to opportunities in other areas outside of a healthier portfolio, in creating impact, such as ‘improving Accessibility’, ‘Responsible marketing’, Workforce nutrition’, etc. I believe that the ATNI index is a great guide that could help us integrate nutrition agenda into our business planning process itself and help us focus in improving the nutrition delivery to all our stakeholders and make a meaningful impact.”

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Mr Hemant Malik, CEO ITC Ltd (Foods Division) states: :

“In line with our Mission to “Help India Eat Better”, ITC has been relentlessly working to have a nutritious food portfolio based on Indian Diets. We have been continuously investing in R&D and new technologies to better the nutrition profile of our products while satiating the taste buds of the Indian consumer. It is encouraging to see ITC’s Food Division score the highest overall among all the food companies assessed, both Indian and Multinational, and encourages our continuous improvement efforts. A balanced portfolio of products from staples to snacking, high governance standards, responsible marketing practises, and ensuring affordability of healthy products gives us the opportunity to serve our consumers better and deliver sustainable growth for all stakeholders. Also, for future measures on product healthiness, we urge various stakeholders to work together & map the product healthiness via a profiling system that is based on Indian dietary patterns & eating behaviour.”

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For many of the topics in the Index, public disclosure or evidence was lacking. therefore low scores often reflect “no information”. Following the launch, several Indexed companies realized their scores would substantially increase if their activities had been published in annual reports or company websites. The ask for further transparency is growing from investors as well as the wider nutrition community. Companies in the Index can show leadership and best practice if more effort is put into reporting. That said, moving forward ATNI will aim to capture a greater range of nutrition efforts by companies even where those efforts are hampered due to lack of public disclosure of activities or policies, for example through further performance measurement.. In addition, in the absence of an Indian-specific standard for healthy food which would improve measurement for the Indian market, researchers used the Australaisan  Health Star Rating model to compare company portfolios and to compare companies that produce food products in the same categories.

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Investors in India increasingly see an important opportunity for future sustainable growth with more consumer demand for nutritious foods and greater awareness that companies would benefit from heathier food portfolios over the long term. Leading up to the launch, four new India-based institutional investor signatories became signatories to ATNI’s Investors Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health. Several investors in the listed companies among the 20 F&B manufacturers assessed committed to follow up with the companies they hold shares in.

 

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Tom Allen, Investment Analyst & Portfolio Manager from Aikya Investments states:

“Understanding the business case for nutrition is crucial for investors in food & beverage companies in India. We’re seeing new developments on regulation around product labelling, fortification, and marketing; at the same time workforce productivity losses linked to obesity could end up costing the economy close to $80bn by 2030. From a bottom-up perspective, the most progressive companies understand the risks and opportunities linked to nutrition. With nutrition central to strategy, these companies are likely to be the long-term winners in India. We’ve been better able to identify the winners with the help of ATNI’s analysis and their 2023 findings.”

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About ATNI

ATNI is a global nonprofit established in 2013 to transform markets so they provide more nutritious, affordable and sustainable foods for all. ATNI, in partnership with investors, civil society organizations, intergovernmental agencies, and supporting policymakers, aims to see at least 50% of all food & beverage sales globally derived from healthy products by 2030. ATNI empowers key actors in the global food system and at national levels – starting with industry – to accelerate access to nutritious, affordable and sustainable foods for all.

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Working through ATNI’s Investors in Nutrition and Health to achieve more responsible investing – and engaging with policymakers towards the establishment of improved food policies – ATNI deploys accountability tools, smart data and analyses on nutrition and the private sector. ATNI is funded by governments and philanthropies, remaining independent of any undue influence.

See full 2023 India Index

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