The first edition of the Global Access to Nutrition Index for 2013 was recently published. This index ranks companies based on international guidelines, norms and accepted good practices, including accessibility to affordable products, responsible marketing policies, informative labeling, and appropriate use of health and nutrition claims. The top three companies were Danone, Unilever, and Nestle, all ranking high in the area of formulating healthier products and making those products affordable.
Inge Kauer, the index’s executive director, calls the index “an urgent call to action” to food and beverage makers to make improved nutrition part of their business strategies. “It is not only good for public health; it is a business imperative and key to their long-term sustainability.”
Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University and a member of the expert group that provided guidance on the development of the index says, ”I give them high marks for courage for undertaking a difficult but very important task.”
Another example of efforts toward encouraging children to eat healthier is Pinnacle Foods’ (owner of Birds Eye frozen vegetables) recent campaigns. The company’s marketing push was through the Nickelodeon channel, and resulted in a two-month sales increase for the Birds Eye brand. Pinnacle Foods is now undertaking a larger advertising campaign to introduce new healthful products, inspired in part by suggestions that children submitted through the Nickelodeon program. Other food and beverage companies are following the trend toward more healthful product lines. Kraft Foods has stated it intends to reduce the sodium content of its products. Soft drink companies are tinkering with sugar substitutes to reduce the calorie level of its beverages while avoiding a “diet” taste.
The challenge, and opportunity, for food and beverage companies is to ensure that “doing good” is not just a corporate mantra, but a strategy to be measured and expected to drive growth.