Food, beverage firms need to improve nutritional quality of products in India

Access to Nutrition Foundation unveils index to nudge companies to provide healthy products

New Delhi, December 14:

Food and beverage manufacturers in India need to put in a lot of effort to improve the nutritional quality of their products to combat malnutrition in India, according to Access to Nutrition Foundation, which launched India Access to Nutrition Spotlight Index here on Wednesday, based on an product analysis of the 10 key players in the sector in India.

As per a report by the Netherlands-based non-profit organisation: “Only 12 per cent of the beverages and 16 per cent of the foods sold by these companies were estimated to be of high nutritional quality in the product profile analysis.”

Based on the total sales in 2014, the 10 food and beverage manufacturers selected for assessment for the index included Amul (GCMMF), Britannia Industries, Coca-Cola India, Mondelez India, Mother Dairy, Nestle India, Parle Products, PepsiCo India, Ruchi Soya Industries and Hindustan Unilever.

Inge Kauer, Executive Director, Access to Nutrition Foundation, said: “India faces the serious and escalating double burden of malnutrition, with a large undernourished population as well as growing numbers of overweight and obese people who are developing chronic diseases. Food and Beverage (F&B) manufacturers in India have the potential, and the responsibility, to be part of the solution to this double burden of malnutrition.”

Selling healthy products

The study ranked Mother Dairy, Hindustan Unilever, Amul and Britannia Industries as the top four companies that sell the largest proportion of healthy products. The product profile score assessment was based on the nutritional quality of products weighted by retail sales.

On the corporate profile score, which assesses the company’s’ nutrition commitments, practices and disclosure, Nestle India, Hindustan Unilever, PepsiCo India, and Mondelez India ranked among the top four.

The report said while nine of these companies had made commitments to combat undernutrition, most companies either did not produce or produce very few fortified packaged foods.

Fortification standards

Speaking at the launch of the index, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal said the government was committed to address issues related to malnutrition and the regulator had recently come out with fortification standards for staples.“Fortification can be made mandatory in some areas but in many areas making it mandatory is not feasible,” he added.

On a query regarding making companies more accountable for product labels, Agarwal said the regulator was examining Codex norms and the labelling norms were currently under revision, adding that the regulator would look at the best global practices.