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‘Healthy’ products do not occupy adequate space on the plate of top food firms

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 28, 2020

HUL, Nestle fare better than others on nutrition index

Healthy products contributed less than a third (27 per cent) of the estimated 2018 sales of packaged food and beverage products in India of 16 key companies, including Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and Nestle India, according to the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI).

The international not-for-profit organisation released the second edition of the ‘India Spotlight Index 2020’ on Thursday, which evaluated 16 food and beverage companies on their policies, products and practices aimed at improving nutrition. Of the 1,456 products of these companies assessed, only about 16 per cent were considered healthy.

HUL and Nestle India were jointly ranked first with the highest score (6.9) on the ‘India Access to Nutrition Spotlight Index 2020’. PepsiCo India and Britannia Industries were ranked third and fourth respectively, on the Index.

Coca-Cola India and Mondelez India bagged the fifth and sixth ranks respectively.

Other companies ranked among the top 10 on the Index included Mother Dairy, Marico, ITC and KMF Nandini.

ATNI however, noted that the current industry efforts are not sufficient to match the scale of the nutrition challenges ― malnutrition and obesity ― that India currently faces. “The food and beverage industry is actively engaging and acting on initiative and regulatory developments in the country. However, the overall healthiness of Indian food and beverage manufacturers’ product portfolios and public disclosures of nutrition-focused initiatives and progress remains low,” ATNI stated.

Meanwhile, the report also noted that Britannia Industries and Coca-Cola have most significantly improved their rankings since 2016, (the first edition of the index), with higher scores in at least five of the seven parameters.

“Ten of the 13 companies, for which staple food fortification is relevant, voluntarily fortify some or all of their products according to standards set by FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India),” it stated. Meanwhile, commercial strategies of only five companies (out of 16), referred to some extent to the nutrition and health priorities set out in the government’s National Nutrition strategy and Poshan Abhiyaan.

“HUL, Nestle India and PepsiCo India have developed comprehensive, public, formal commercial strategies to address issues related to the double burden of malnutrition in India. Britannia Industries and ITC are the only India-headquartered companies that have a nutrition policy in place,” ATNI stated in its report.

While six of the 16 companies assessed have made public pledges to reformulate their products in line with FSSAI’s Eat Right Movement, four companies have made other commitments to make their products healthier. Reformulation involves cutting down on salt, sugar and saturated fat in the products. It also noted that only four companies out of the 16 assessed were found to have a strategy in place to help improve affordability and physical accessibility of their healthy products.

Inge Kauer, Executive Director, ATNI, said, “India is among the top 10 consumers of fast-food in the world. This, coupled with the fact that India is set to become the third-largest consumer economy, presents an enormous opportunity for food and beverage companies to make nutrition a core part of their business plans and adopt comprehensive public and commercial strategies to address issues related to the double burden of malnutrition in India.”

In a statement, Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & Managing Director, Nestlé India, said, “Nestlé India believes that nutrition is a fundamental need and the food industry has a vital role to play in enabling healthier lives.”

In a separate statement, HUL stated, “It is the company’s belief that corporates like HUL have the scale to play a key role in helping the country reduce the triple burden of malnourishment – undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity.”

Published on February 28, 2020

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