Global Index Shows Top Food and Beverage Companies Must Do More to Fight Malnutrition

The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) recently released its 2021 Global Index, revealing that top food and beverage manufacturers are not working hard enough to address global nutrition challenges.

ATNI is an organization that aims to encourage businesses to act in addressing the global nutrition crisis. Their Global Index assesses how the world’s largest food and beverage companies are addressing all forms of malnutrition including obesity, undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiency. It analyzes the 25 largest food and beverage manufacturers on their commitments, practices, and disclosure concerning management; the production and distribution of healthy, affordable, accessible products; and their influence on consumer behavior.

Inge Kauer, Executive Director of ATNI, tells Food Tank that the purpose of the Global Index is “to hold the private sector accountable in delivering on commitments to tackle growing nutrition challenges worldwide.”

The Index “serves as a call to action, providing clear and tangible recommendations and paths for improvement and shedding light on the ways companies influence consumer choice and behavior. Most importantly, the Index demonstrates the importance of companies making healthy food affordable and accessible in all markets, particularly for at-risk consumers in low-income households and those that lack physical access to nutritious food,” Kauer says.

Companies’ rankings are based on seven categories: governance, products, accessibility, marketing, lifestyles, labeling, and engagement. Depending on their performance, each company receives a score from zero to 10, with zero being the lowest possible score and 10 the highest. The Global Index also assesses the healthiness of companies’ product portfolios using the Health Star Rating (HSR) model, which measures the nutrition content of food products.

Nestlé led the 2021 rankings with an overall score of 6.7. Unilever came in second with a score of 6.3 and FrieslandCampina came in third with 5.9 points. The 25 companies averaged a score of 3.3, the same as in 2018 when the last Global Index was published. But using only the 22 that were companies were assessed in both 2018 and 2021, the average score in 2021 is 3.6.

According to Kauer, little progress has been made since the 2018 report. In fact, the 2021 report finds that all but one of 10 leading companies scored lower than they did three years prior. Most companies in the middle and lower rankings scored slightly higher.

The 2021 report also uncovers that nutrition activities tend to be better when companies’ commitments are integrated into the core business strategy and publicly reported on.

Kauer tells Food Tank that “real nutritional change comes from company commitments that start at the top and use a global approach to reach all markets. Standalone policies and promises are not enough. Instead, companies must commit to global policies that demonstrate objective, measurable targets.”

Moving forward, Kauer hopes to see businesses “step up, scale up, and make a difference to healthier diets for everyone, everywhere.” She also stresses that consumers can help hold companies accountable and ensure they address malnutrition by maintaining a strong demand for healthy products.

“[Food and beverage] manufacturers have a responsibility to their consumers to provide them with this nourishment, and more recently consumers are acknowledging this too,” Kauer tells Food Tank. “Everyone deserves to be able to access and afford healthy food.”

Photo courtesy of  Peter Bond, Unsplash

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