Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) unveils 3rd edition of India Nutrition Index

The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI), a global independent non-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing market transformation for enhanced access to nutrition, hosted a multi-stakeholder event to launch its third edition of the India Index in the capital, in partnership with Consumer Voice and Confederation of Indian Industry.

Greg S Garrett, Executive Director, ATNI, said, “ATNI works on three levels to transform markets and achieve improved access to healthier products and diets: tools including benchmarks and indexes that assess the private sector on their nutrition commitments and products; policy support and alliances including via ATNI’s Investors in nutrition and health; and action research which underpin market change for nutrition.” He feels that this India index will serve as a powerful catalyst for driving positive change within the food and beverage industry in India. According to him focusing on private sector contributions to diet, nutrition, and health, the Index sheds light on what is working and what is not among the food industry. He said that it is exciting to see efforts aimed at driving real impact and fostering a more conscious and health-centric approach within the industry.

The India Index 2023 edition assesses 20 of the largest food and beverage manufacturers in India. Fourteen of the companies are listed on Indian or international stock exchanges.

Full list of companies assessed:

Adani Wilmar; Agro Tech Foods; Britannia Industries; Coca-Cola India; Dabur India; Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) AMUL; Haldiram’s Snacks Private Limited; Hatsun Agro Products; Heritage Foods; Hindustan Unilever; ITC; KMF Nandini (Karnataka Cooperative Milk Producers Federation); Lactalis India; Marico; Mondelez India Foods; Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetables; Nestlé India; Parle Products; Patanjali Foods; PepsiCo India.

Business in India is booming, particularly in the food sector –

a. The Government of India aims to double the contribution of the food processing sector to GDP by 2030.

b. Indian household consumption is set to quadruple by 2030.

c. The sales of packaged F&B in India surged by 15 per cent annually since 2011, outshining total food sales.

Alongside India’s rapid economic growth, the country is also witnessing a transition in dietary patterns and an increased consumption of processed foods. India’s food processing industry is now the sixth largest in the world, expected to reach INR 40.1 trillion (USD 480 billion) by 2026.

Health Landscape: Micronutrient deficiencies are highly prevalent, with over 23 per cent of adults overweight and 35.5 per cent of children under five facing stunted growth, while 3.4 per cent of children under five years of age grapple with early onset of overweight issues. The numbers are too high when compared to developed nations.

The macroeconomic cost to India of malnutrition is immense –

a. The indirect cost to businesses in India due to obesity-related reduced workforce productivity is projected to be USD 75.65 billion by 2030 (World Obesity Federation).

b. Reduced workforce productivity due to anaemia – just one type of malnutrition – is costing Indian businesses $20.5 billion each year (Chatham House).

Global cost of malnutrition: while the cost of global food consumption is c$9 trillion, the estimated cost to human life of poor diets is $11 trillion.

Key Findings

The F&B industry plays an increasingly pivotal role in determining what consumers in India eat, the quality of their diets, and resulting health impacts.

Companies and products are evolving: Seven out of 20 indexed companies are on a journey of transformation, setting (re)formulation targets in line with dietary guidelines for sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. Half of them wield nutrition strategies, marking a commitment to a healthier tomorrow. Our deep dive into 1,901 products from the top 20 companies shows only 24 per cent of sales are derived from “healthier” products.

Garrett also stated that, “The access to nutrition initiatives index look at the foods which are most consumed and available for purchase at food retail throughout India. So what we did was to find out who was consuming those foods. We have the healthiness profile of the foods and there we can say that only 26 per cent of the processed foods in India, are available on the food retail.” He went on to say that the we can assume that, that is probably driving a low consumption of healthy foods in the youth of today not only in India, but globally as well. 

Further Key Points

There is no agreed definition of what constitutes a healthy food so companies resort to using their own definitions that are not necessarily aligned with each other or with (inter)nationally-recognized standards.

1. Seven out of 20 indexed companies report having at least one (re)formulation target in place to reduce nutrients of concern (e.g., sodium, saturated fat, sugar) in their portfolio and half of the companies have a nutrition strategy in place.

2. Seven companies have a publicly available policy on responsible marketing to children.

3. Five companies show evidence of having clearly defined workforce nutrition programs in place, of which two companies clearly include measurable targets.

4. Seven out of 20 companies were found to have a responsible advocacy policy in place.

Findings of the 2023 India Index show that the F&B industry has significant opportunity to improve its product offerings making them healthier and more affordable for all consumers in India. Five institutional investors and shareholders of food companies in India have now signed up to nutrition frameworks such as the Investor Expectations on Nutrition, Diets and Health as part of their responsible investment strategies.

Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at addressing under nutrition and hunger, the India Index serves as a crucial instrument for enhancing product portfolios, striving for at least half of these portfolios to meet healthy standards by 2030.

Moving on Garrett said that in the next five years ATNI has a big goal to achieve. It has begun already as they have started a movement with a five year strategy which is from 2023 to 2027 so that the sales of the food industry are derived from healthy products. “Today, most sales are derived from unhealthy food products. About 70 per cent will be from unhealthy food. The unhealthy foods are cheaper than the healthy ones, which is unfortunate,” he opined.

On a conclusive note he said that, “Education is critical. For teenagers, awareness on a healthy diet and products is essential. I know there are organisations which are trying to put healthy food awareness in the education system, hence it seems to be going in the right direction.”

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