The world’s largest food company, in terms of revenue and other metrics, Nestlé S.A, has acknowledged that a presentation document exposed by an insider and circulated by the Financial Times (FT) was true.
The tabloid had reported that it obtained a document which revealed that more than 60 per cent of Nestlé’s mainstream food and drinks products do not meet recognized definition of health needs.
The document, which was said to have been issued among Nestlé executives, further stated, “Some of the categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate”.
According to the FT, the presentation said that only 37 per cent of Nestlé’s food and beverages by revenues achieve a rating above 3.5 under Australia’s Health Star Rating System. The system scores foods out of five stars and Nestlé described the 3.5-star thresholds as a “recognized definition of health”. The FT report added that the data excludes categories like infant formula, pet food, coffee, and medical nutrition, and therefore accounts for about half of the company’s total annual revenues.
The Health Star Rating System was established in 2014 as a control measure to reverse the rate of overweight among Australians. In Australia and New Zealand, the Health Star Rating (HSR) Front of Pack Label (FoPL) system aims to provide convenient, relevant, and readily understood nutrition information by using a rating from half a star to five stars, where more stars indicate a healthier choice within a given food or beverage category.
The HSR system is a joint Australian state and territory governments and New Zealand government initiative developed in collaboration with industry, public health, and consumer groups. Within its overall food and drink portfolio, about 60 per cent of Nestlé’s food products failed to meet the 3.5-star threshold, the presentation revealed, along with 96 per cent of beverages but excludes pure coffee and 99 per cent of Nestlé’s confectionery and ice cream portfolio. Water and dairy products have a better score with 82 per cent of waters and 60 per cent of dairy meeting the threshold.
Nestle through its spokesperson, in a statement, said it was working on a company-wide project to update its nutrition and health strategy and it was looking at its entire portfolio to ensure its products helped meet people’s nutritional needs and supporting a balanced diet.
It disclosed further that it had reduced sugars and sodium in its products by about 14-15 per cent in the past seven years and would continue to make its products healthier.
The statement read in part: “We believe that a healthy diet means finding a balance between wellbeing and enjoyment. This includes having some space for indulgent foods, consumed in moderation. Our direction of travel has not changed and is clear: we will continue to make our portfolio tastier and healthier.”
Nestlé added that it would first focus on food and beverage products that can be measured against external nutrition profiling systems, stating that labels like Australia’s Health Star Rating system and the Nutri-Score programme used in continental Europe are useful in this regard and enable consumers to make informed choices.
Nestlé S.A which has its headquarter in Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland operates factories in 189 countries and produces product brands which include snack, pet food, frozen food, ice cream, dairy products, confectionery, chocolates, candies, coffee and tea, breakfast cereals, baby food, seasonings, water, pharmaceuticals across all its factories.
Some of its notable products include Milo, Nido, Golden Morn, Purelife table water, Nescafe, and Maggi, among many others.