NEW DELHI || The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) on Friday launched the second iteration of the India Access to Nutrition Spotlight Index in New Delhi. The principal finding, following months of in-depth research, is that the largest food and beverage companies in India are providing only limited options of healthy products to a population faced with major nutrition challenges.
The report finds that companies are showing a greater understanding of – and a commitment to fighting – the enduring and mounting double burden of malnutrition in India. However, more innovative, healthy and affordable products can and should be introduced to make a real difference for all Indians. This result, along with all other key outcomes of the Index, is being unveiled today at a multi-stakeholder launch event that brings together the companies assessed, government representatives, and the wider nutrition community in India.
Commenting on the occasion, Inge Kauer, executive director of ATNI, says: “ATNI sees food and beverage companies in India showing their commitment to providing healthy food and engaging in a dialogue on how to support India’s Eat Right Movement.
Lifestyle changes in India have caused a shift in consumer habits – from the consumption of traditional food to more urban food habits consisting of packaged and processed foods, high in sugar, fat and salt. In fact, India is among the top 10 consumers of fast food in the world.
This, coupled with the fact that India is set to become the third-largest consumer economy, presents an enormous opportunity for food and beverage companies to make nutrition a core part of their business plans, and to adopt comprehensive, public and commercial strategies to address issues related to the double burden of malnutrition in India.”
In 2016, ATNI published the first India Spotlight Index, a first-of-its-kind independent national assessment to measure the nutrition-related policies and practices of India’s 10 largest food and beverage manufacturers.
This second 2020 iteration extends the scope of the Index by including the 16 largest food and beverage manufacturers in India – nine of which were previously assessed in 2016 – with the ultimate goal to drive the private sector’s performance on healthy, affordable diets and address undernutrition, obesity and diet-related diseases.
There has been some progress made among the nine previously assessed companies, with average scores increasing from 3 out of 10 in 2016 to 4.2 out of 10 in 2020. Overall, the average Index score is 3.1, which is similar to the 2016 iteration. Hindustan Unilever and Nestlé India rank joint-first with scores of 6.9 out of 10. Britannia Industries has shown the most progress. Their overall score increased from 1.6 in 2016 to 4.9 now.
Despite the progress, ATNI stresses that current industry efforts are not sufficient to match the scale of the nutrition challenge that India faces. Few companies provide evidence of tackling undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight and obesity challenges comprehensively in all relevant business areas.
Rajan Sankar, director of nutrition at Tata Trusts and member of the ATNI Board, says “The India Spotlight Index 2020 shows that among the 16 largest food and beverage manufacturers, that cover nearly a third of the food and beverage market, most take action to fortify products or commit to reformulate products in line with government initiatives to address India’s nutrition challenges.
Ten of the 13 companies, for which staple food fortification is relevant, voluntarily fortify some or all of their products according to the standards set by FSSAI. This is a big improvement since 2016 when ATNI found very few companies producing some fortified foods. FSSAI has since effectively stepped up their guidance to industry on fortification.”
Driving the private sector’s performance on healthy, affordable diets is a crucial factor to reach India’s National Nutrition Mission and the goals of India’s Eat Right Movement. Reaching the goals of the Movement for more than 1.25 billion citizens in India is also a prerequisite to reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular, zero hunger and good health and well-being for all.