NEW DELHI :
Packaged goods firms Hindustan Unilever Ltd that sells food brands such as Knorr and Kissan, and Nestle India jointly topped the rankings this year for making efforts to improve nutrition.
They were followed by the local arm of the American snacking and beverages company PepsiCo in Access to Nutrition Spotlight Index 2020.
According to the findings of a report by Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI), a not-for-profit organisation, 16 food and beverage manufacturers were evaluated for policies, practices and performance related to improving nutrition in their products.
Britannia Industries and Cola-Cola India have shown substantial individual progress across most elements of the Index since 2016, the report added.
In all, these 16 packaged food and beverage firms that were ranked in the index improved their score from 3 on 10 to 4.2 on 10 since the last rankings released in 2016.
Together, they accounted for 31% of India’s packaged food and beverage market share with a combined total retail sales of over ₹1,800 billion.
In ATNI’s maiden rankings for India, published in 2016, where it assessed nine companies, Nestle India Ltd topped the ranking with a score of 7.1 out of 10 in overall terms, followed by Hindustan Unilever (6.7).
The country’s top fast moving consumer good makers are increasing efforts to launch more nutritional and fortified foods in Asia’s third-largest economy where instances of malnutrition as well as obesity are high.
The report suggests that less than a third (27%) of the sales of companies assessed are derived from what it calls “healthy products". Of the 1,456 products assessed by ATNI only 16% met healthy standards, underlining the need for better offerings by India’s top food companies. “All companies are to increase the healthiness of their portfolios," it said.
ATNI said that since 2016 companies have stepped up efforts to add more micro-nutrients, iron and vitamins but more needs to be done to launch healthier products at the right price, said Inge Kauer, executive director, Access to Nutrition Initiative.
“In India, 46% of our total foods and refreshment portfolio meets Unilever’s highest nutrition standards and 52% of our foods portfolio (by volume) is compliant to 5g salt per day target," a spokesperson for Hindustan Unilever said. “As part of our ‘reducing salt’ commitment under the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, three key variants of Kissan sauces now meet the sodium benchmarks. In addition, Knorr soups do not contain any added MSG."
The survey added that seven of the 16 companies now label sodium content on their packs.
In terms of front-of-pack (FOP) labeling, five companies have made a public commitment to declare nutrition information. “Nestlé India believes that nutrition is a fundamental need and the food industry has a vital role to play in enabling healthier lives," Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & Managing Director, Nestlé India said in a statement on the findings of the report.
The report comes at a time when India’s top food regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is putting labelling norms in place for packaged and loose foods.
However, more companies need to take responsibility when marketing their products to children. “Only 12% (183 products) of the nearly 1,500 products analysed meet the WHO nutrition criteria for marketing to children, highlighting the need to address responsible marketing in comprehensive policies," the report said.
Beverage maker Coca-Cola India and Mondelez India commit not to market any of their products to children, ATNI added.
ATNI is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.