Nestlé working to put health tops in its portfolio

Nestlé is updating its nutrition and health strategy, including a review of package labelling, nutritional information and portion guidance, as it faces criticism about unhealthy food in its portfolio.

The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, has acknowledged that more than 60 per cent of its mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a “recognised definition of health” and that “some of our categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate”.

A presentation circulated among top executives this year, seen by the Financial Times, says only 37 per cent of Nestlé’s food and beverages by revenues, excluding products such as pet food and specialised medical nutrition, achieve a rating above 3.5 under Australia’s health star rating system.

This system scores foods out of five stars and is used in research by international groups such as the Access to Nutrition Foundation. Nestlé, the maker of KitKats, Maggi noodles and Nescafé, describes the 3.5 star threshold as a “recognised definition of health”.

Within its overall food and drink portfolio, about 70 per cent of Nestlé’s food products failed to meet that threshold, the presentation said, along with 96 per cent of beverages — excluding pure coffee — and 99 per cent of Nestlé’s confectionery and ice cream portfolio.

Water and dairy products scored better, with 82 per cent of waters and 60 per cent of dairy meeting the threshold.

“We have made significant improvements to our products . . . [but] our portfolio still underperforms against external definitions of health in a landscape where regulatory pressure and consumer demands are skyrocketing,” the presentation said.

The data excludes baby formula, pet food, coffee and the health science division, which makes foods for people with specific medical conditions. This means the data accounts for about half of Nestlé’s SFr92.6bn (£72.7bn) total annual revenues.

The findings come as foodmakers contend with a global push to combat obesity and promote healthier eating.

Executives at Nestlé are considering what new commitments to make on nutrition and are aiming to unveil plans this year. The group is also updating its internal nutrition standards, known as the Nestlé Nutritional Foundation, that were introduced under former chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who characterised Nestlé as a “nutrition, health and wellness company”.

Nestlé was ranked highest among the world’s big food and beverage manufacturers in a 2018 index of efforts to encourage better diets compiled by the Access to Nutrition Foundation, though the foundation warned that “all companies need to do much more”.

Nestlé said: “In recent years, we have launched thousands of products for kids and families that meet external nutrition yardsticks. We have also distributed billions of micronutrient doses via our affordable and nutritious products.”

It added: “We believe that a healthy diet means finding a balance between wellbeing and enjoyment. This includes having some space for indulgent foods, consumed in moderation.

“Our direction of travel has not changed and is clear: we will continue to make our portfolio tastier and healthier.”….

Financial Times: Read the full story here