Investors managing $3 trillion in assets are pushing multinational food companies Nestlé, Danone, Kraft Heinz and Kellogg to set new health disclosures and targets after a successful campaign for changes at Unilever.
Investors, including Legal & General Investment Management and BMO Global Asset Management, have written to the companies’ boards of directors ahead of their annual meetings, to show shareholder concern about nutrition and obesity.
In a batch that was also coordinated by the nonprofit ShareAction for Responsible Investing, a smaller group of the same investors last month. Believer New commitments from Unilever on health.
Unilever said it will publish nutrition results for its food portfolio against external metrics — not just its own — and set new targets, after investors submitted a resolution ahead of the AGM.
The new push for major food brands to improve their health credentials comes as governments globally tighten regulations to help curb obesity.
“Regulatory trends, in addition to consumer support for healthy products, mean that food companies must view health as an increased physical risk factor,” said Ignacio Vasquez, Senior Director at ShareAction.
“Investors need companies to use standardized health metrics to determine their exposure to regulatory risk and their position relative to competitors.”
ShareAction above targeted UK supermarket Tesco on obesity has requested meetings with the head of each of the food makers and said the public move represented an “escalation” of private discussions.
Vasquez added: “If you go to the manufacturers’ reports and supermarkets, you’ll find information about what they’re doing about climate change, plastics, biodiversity and so on, but nutrition and health haven’t been properly addressed.
“What has changed in the last couple of years is that Covid and the link to being overweight have put the spotlight on unhealthy foods and governments around the world. [are] Really intensify the regulations.”
The letters compared companies’ own ratings of their products with results using external metrics by the Access to Independent Nutrition Initiative (ATNI).
For example, Nestlé said that in 2019, 80.5 percent of prevalent food and beverage sales were products that met the Nestlé Food Foundation’s standards. But ATNI put the proportion of health product sales at 43 percent.
The Financial Times last year open That Nestlé evaluated its portfolio internally against third-party metrics and found that more than 60 percent of its mainstream foods and beverages did not meet a “recognised definition of health”.
Nestlé said: “As part of our ongoing company-wide work to modernize our sustainable food and health approach, we are doing so . . . the search for the best way to evaluate ourselves against external and recognized standards.”
Danone says 90 percent of its sales are from health products, but ATNI puts the number at 65 percent, while Kraft Heinz’s number of 76 percent contrasts with ATNI’s 39 percent. Kellogg does not provide health data, but ATNI says that only 27 percent of its sales are health products.
A Censuswide survey for ShareAction in the UK, US, Germany, France, Australia and Mexico found general support for greater action. Among respondents, 81 percent said they support government regulations to make healthy foods more affordable and more widely available.
Danone said it is “committed to providing clearer and more complete information on the ingredients and nutritional value of our products,” including through the use of the European Nutri-Score system.
“We believe in the need to refocus attention towards a holistic approach to well-being, considering not only the nutrients that individual foods provide, but also how food makes people feel and the impact of food on society and the planet,” Kellogg said.