Obesity and undernutrition affect over 3 billion people and are among the world's most pressing public health concerns. Efforts to address them are vital to ensure that people around the world can live healthy and productive lives.
The launch of the Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) is a groundbreaking initiative to promote more objective public debate around the issues and encourage companies to provide consumers with access to better nutrition.
ATNI serves as a means for companies to benchmark their approach to nutrition against their peers and identify areas for improvement. It is also an independent source of information for stakeholders interested in monitoring and/or engaging with the food and beverage industry on nutrition issues.
The Index is founded on the premise that food and beverage manufacturers have a central role to play in addressing nutrition challenges. In fact, given their enormous and growing global reach, companies must be at the forefront of solutions to improve access to better nutrition.
The 25 companies assessed by ATNI have combined revenues of 459 billion. These companies do not only sell food products; they also shape the environment in which consumers make choices. They were evaluated on criteria including: corporate strategy on nutrition; formulation and delivery of appropriate, affordable and accessible products; and positive influence on consumer choice and behavior.
Danone, Unilever and Nestlé are the highest ranking companies by sizable margins. But even their scores, the highest was Danone with 6.3 on a scale to 10, demonstrated there is significant room for improvement. And only three companies scored above 5.
ATNI found that across the board, industry can do more to improve consumer access to nutritious food options. For instance, companies' practices often do not measure up to their nutrition commitments, particularly in areas such as formulating healthy products, making them more accessible to consumers, and marketing them appropriately.
There is also a lack of transparency about companies' nutrition practices. This should not obscure the fact, though, that many companies are already taking some action, and we hope that ATNI will be a useful tool or road map for them to use in improving their nutrition practices.
At the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), we have been building up for this launch for the past three years, with a dedicated project team developing the concept and managing it through to fruition. The Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have been co-funders and partners in this endeavor. ATNI will now become an independent body and will publish a report and rankings every two years.
The lead up to the launch has been a monumental task involving extensive input from governments, international organizations, civil society, academia, investors and nutrition experts and I thank everyone involved for their time and dedication.
It is my firm belief that the only way to overcome the double burden of malnutrition - obesity and undernutrition - is through the engagement of both the private and public sectors.