The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, has acknowledged that over 60 per cent of its mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a “recognised definition of health” and that “some of our categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate”.
A presentation circulated among top executives this year, seen by the Financial Times, says only 37 per cent 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.
According to FT, 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 noodles and Nescafé, describes the 3.5-star threshold as a “recognised definition of health”.
Within its overall food and drink portfolio, about 70 per cent of Nestlé’s food products failed to meet that threshold, the presentation said, along with 96 per cent of beverages — excluding pure coffee — and 99 per cent of Nestlé’s confectionery and ice cream portfolio, the newspaper reported.
Water and dairy products scored better, with 82 per cent of waters and 60 per cent of dairy meeting the threshold. Nestlé said on Monday it was working on updating its nutrition and health strategy after the Financial Times report.
The paper said this assessment applied to about half of Nestlé’s overall portfolio because categories like medical nutrition, pet food, coffee and infant formula were excluded from the analysis.
The findings come as food makers contend with a global push to combat obesity and promote healthier eating. Executives at Nestlé are considering what new commitments to make on nutrition and are aiming to unveil plans this year.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said that including these categories would significantly reduce the proportion of products potentially considered unhealthy.
“Given the group’s confectionery, ice cream, and pizza businesses, the real figure for the group based on 2021 estimates would be 28 per cent, which is hardly a surprise,” he said in a note. He said the report could point to changes in the product portfolio, notably an exit from mainstream confectionary.
According to FT, the data 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 £72. 7 billion total.