Unilever Will Publish Product Health Performances Compared to 6 Government Standards In Industry First
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In a move that comes after shareholder pressure, multinational food giant Unilever has announced that it is the first major food company to publicly report on the performance of its product portfolio against at least six government-endorsed Nutrient Profile Models.
Unilever, parent company to brands including Hellmann’s, Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s, and The Vegetarian Butcher, says it’s taking steps to assess its nutritional performance and make the findings public on more than 25,000 products.
Unilever made the announcement after a coalition of investors and individuals working with ShareAction and the Healthy Markets Initiative, filed a shareholder proposal in January, urging the company to disclose nutrition information compared with government health models in its key markets.
The company says it will be reporting on product performance based on at least six different NPMs as well as its own internal nutrition standards will be reported on annually for 16 key markets, including the U.S., a number of EU countries, the U.K. and Ireland, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, South Asia, India, China, Australia, and South Africa, the company announced yesterday. The first assessment will be released by October.
The assessment criteria include the High Fat Salt Sugar (HFSS) used in the U.K., Europe’s NutriScore, and the Health Star Rating in Australia and New Zealand. It also includes front of packaging logos in Chile, Healthy Choice logos in Singapore and Choices International.
“We welcome the constructive dialogue we have had with ShareAction and the Healthy Markets Initiative,” Hanneke Faber, Unilever’s President of Foods & Refreshment, said in a statement.
“We share a common belief in the importance of having an ambitious long-term strategy for nutrition and health, and that companies should publish ambitious targets to deliver against. I am confident that with these new initiatives, we will set a new benchmark for nutrition transparency in our industry and accelerate our positive impact on public health,” Faber said.
“A food manufacturer as large as Unilever has the power to improve the health of millions of people across the world. Responsible investors are challenging such companies to step up. We welcome Unilever’s new commitments,” Catherine Howarth, CEO of ShareAction said.
“The transparency promised sets a new standard for the industry. We hope and expect that others will follow. ShareAction and the Healthy Markets investor coalition looks forward to working closely with Unilever as the company sets stretching new targets to sell more healthier food—and improve people’s health.”
The move includes commitments from Unilever to stretch its nutrition targets, part of its Future Food commitments published in 2020, which targeted reductions in sodium, sugar, and calories. The commitment also included increasing plant-based product sales, which have been buoyed by recent successes for The Vegetarian Butcher, the Dutch-based vegan meat brand. It recently set its sights on Asia, with a Burger King partnership in Indonesia, as well as foodservice expansion in Singapore and China.
Unilever’s ice cream portfolio stars, Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum, have both increased their dairy-free offerings across categories. And Hellmann’s, which once sued vegan mayonnaise brand Eat Just to prevent its use of the term “mayo”, has launched several vegan offerings of its own.
The announcement builds on Unilever’s commitments elsewhere, including setting climate targets. The company says it has committed to reducing its gross emissions across its value chain in line with Paris Agreement targets by 2030 and tackling residual emissions by 2039.
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