The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, has acknowledged that over 60 percent of its mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a “recognised definition of health”.
Financial Times reported on a presentation that was circulated among top executives of Nestle this year, which revealed that only 37 percent 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. It also acknowledged that some of its categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much the company innovates.
According to Financial Times, 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, and Nescafé, describes the 3.5-star threshold as a “recognised definition of health”.
The presentation stated, “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 data, however, 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 revenue.
Within its overall food and drink portfolio, about 70 percent of Nestlé’s food products failed to meet that threshold, the presentation said, along with 96 percent of beverages — excluding pure coffee — and 99 percent of Nestlé’s confectionery and ice cream portfolio, the newspaper reported.
Water and dairy products scored better, with 82 percent of waters and 60 percent of dairy meeting the threshold.
After the report surfaced, Nestle S.A released a statement saying that it is working on a company-wide project to update nutrition and health strategy.
“We are looking at our entire portfolio across the different phases of people’s lives to ensure our products are helping meet their nutritional needs and supporting a balanced diet,” said a Nestle S.A spokesperson.
The company in its statement cited its efforts to improve the nutritional footprint of its products. “For example, we have reduced the sugar and sodium in our products significantly in the past two decades, about 14-15 percent in the past 7 years alone.”
Nestle has come under fire in the past because of concerns about its food products. Back in 2015, Nestle had landed in trouble after Maggi, its most popular product in the country, was found to have monosodium glutamate or MSG by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). In a major setback for the company, the food safety regulator had consequently banned the sale of the product in the country. Maggi then commanded over 80 percent of the market share in India.
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