Average read time: 11 minutes
A bold ambition to transform the food system
It’s only by working together that the many complex and interconnected issues can be tackled effectively.
Conflicting and contradictory health issues – like malnourishment and obesity on the one hand, and social and environmental issues like food poverty and food waste on the other – are part of a complex, interdependent system. And they’re all issues that need to be addressed.
We’re working with governments, NGOs and others to fix these issues and Taking a stand explains how we’re advocating transformational change.
For the past decade, we’ve been improving our foods and beverages through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) (PDF 8.02MB) (Opens in a new window). The Plan concluded in 2020, when we achieved our ambition of doubling the proportion of products meeting our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) (PDF 155KB) (Opens in a new window). These are based on globally recognised dietary recommendations and 61%* of our Foods and Refreshment portfolio has attained these standards.
Through the USLP we made great strides in reducing the calories, sugar and salt in our products. We’re continuing this reformulation strategy: by 2022 we’re aiming for 70% of our foods to meet these WHO-aligned standards. Nutrient profiling is a core part of our approach and we’ve set out our principles and latest thinking (PDF 313KB) (Opens in a new window) on how it can help consumer choice.
We’ve launched our Future Foods ambitions to help people eat healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain.
We’re helping millions of people to eat better, by offering affordable and healthier foods and beverages, and encouraging them to cook with healthy recipes. By offering more plant-based foods and meat and dairy alternatives, we’re also helping people to eat more nutritious ingredients like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes. We’re providing micronutrients through more fortification of our products, and increasing our ambition in reducing salt, sugar and calories.
Covid-19 has underlined what we already knew. Too much food is being lost and wasted, and cutting this down is key to fixing our broken food system. If we can tackle food loss and waste, we can also tackle wider issues like food security, greenhouse gas emissions associated with growing foods, and biodiversity. Waste-free world outlines our commitments to tackle food loss and waste.
We launched our Future Foods commitments at the end of 2020.
More plant-based foods
€1 billion annual sales from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives by 2025–2027.
According to EDGAR-FOOD (Opens in a new window), the food system currently makes up around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation, natural habitats being turned into farmland, the use of artificial fertilisers and methane from livestock are all major factors in agriculture’s contribution to the climate crisis.
Eating more plant-based meals can be better for the planet, and better for all of us as consumers, as published in 2019 by the EAT-Lancet Commission. We want to make sure that everyone can be part of the move towards plant-based foods and alternative proteins. But if we want people to make the switch, we need plant-based options to be more accessible, affordable and appetising, as well as nutritious. They need to be the easy, obvious choice. That's the aim of our new goal.
We’re prioritising our R&D focus and investment in plant-based foods. The Vegetarian Butcher products are taking the lead – they’re now sold in 45 different countries, and following our partnership with Burger King, we’re expanding in Quick Service Restaurants, as well as in retail. We’re also continuing to grow our Hellmann’s vegan mayonnaise, entering new markets and offering new formats and flavours. And we’re scaling up our vegan ice cream business with our flagship brands Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s and Wall’s.
We’re pleased that our efforts so far have been recognised. In 2020, investor network FAIRR ranked us as the number one food manufacturer in its list of global food companies who are best prepared for the shift towards plant-based proteins.
More positive nutrition
Double the number of products sold that deliver positive nutrition* by 2025.
We’ve been reformulating our foods to comply with our Highest Nutritional Standards by cutting down on salt, sugar, fats and calories. But if we are to succeed in helping people make the transition to healthier eating, we need to go further. That’s the aim of positive nutrition.
Working with internationally respected nutrition experts, we’ve defined what positive nutrition means: foods that are ‘nutrition positive’ contain significant, impactful amounts of crucial ingredients and nutrients like vegetables or proteins, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. These ingredients and nutrients are encouraged by international and national dietary guidelines for a healthier and more sustainable diet.
Across our global portfolio we’re looking at how we can increase these positives. We’ve found that adding them to everyday products like our Knorr meal makers and soups or our Lipton tea can help make healthier habits easier.
Knorr is creating more products that contain Future 50 Foods. Examples include its Anatolian Grains soups in Turkey which are high in nutritional value and protein and are a source of fibre; Knorr Super soups in France; and Nutrish soups in Australia which use nutritious ingredients like grains and vegetables. Wholegrains are the main ingredients of our snacks’ portfolios in Maizena Grãos do Bem and Mae Terra brands in Latin America. Our mayonnaises across different brands are sources of omega 3 or vitamin E.
Our acquisition of Horlicks and Boost , cherished brands in South Asian households for generations, will also play a big role in delivering our positive nutrition commitments. Horlicks Classic, for example, contains nine nutrients (vitamin B6, B12, C, D, copper, folic acid, iron, selenium and zinc) and is clinically proven to support immunity.
Fewer nutrients of concern
70% of our portfolio to meet WHO-aligned nutritional standards by 2022.
We have achieved our USLP commitment to double the proportion of our portfolio that meets our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS). By 2020, 61% of our portfolio complied with our nutritional standards that are based on the World Health Organization (WHO) nutrient guidelines and our ambition is to extend this to 70% by 2022.
We support WHO recommendations and international and national dietary guidelines that state these nutrients should be limited in the diet. Our Highest Nutritional Standards, aligned with these recommendations, are applied across our total global portfolio.
We want to make sure our products are delicious and full of goodness; at the same time, we’re helping people achieve a healthier diet by further reducing nutrients of concern. For a product to be HNS compliant, it must meet all the standards defined for each product group. Standards include: energy, salt, sugar and saturated and trans fat.
The increase in our portfolio offering of lower sodium, sugar and calorie products has been achieved through continuous improvement in our product design for innovations and reformulations, a journey we intend to continue. We advocate a multi-stakeholder approach for all targets, working with governments, academia, business and others in the food industry.
In addition, we’re encouraging people to make nutritious choices through clear labelling and balanced portions.
Less sugar in ice cream
95% of packaged ice cream to contain no more than 22 g total sugar per serving by 2025.
We sell much-loved brands such as Wall’s, Magnum, Cornetto, Ben & Jerry’s, Max/Paddle Pop and Breyers. As the world’s leading ice cream company, we know that treats like ice cream can bring people pleasure. It’s important to lower sugar and calories without sacrificing taste so they can be enjoyed as occasional treat in a balanced diet.
We’re aiming for 95% of our packaged ice creams to meet our new sugar target. While we know it won’t be easy, we’re working to find the technical solutions and have many examples where we have already been successful.
For instance, we’ve been able to reduce sugar without sacrificing taste. In 2019 we reduced the sugar content in Carte d’Or Vanilla, Wall’s Soft Scoop Vanilla and the Cornetto range in the UK by up to 20%. In 2020, Magnum Almond and Magnum Mint (100ml) in the UK also achieved 20% less sugar in the ice cream part and are below 22 g total sugar per serving. And in Germany and Austria, we reduced the sugar content of Cremissimo Bourbon Vanilla by 19% to less than 22 g total sugar per serving.
In recent years, we’ve also launched several ice creams and water ices with no added sugar, such as Magnum No Added Sugar and Calippo Zero Sugar in Europe as well as desserts in Latin America under our Holanda, Pinguino and Kibon brands.
We’ve also reduced the sugar content in many kids’ ice cream products to bring them below 12 g total sugar per serving, in line with our ‘Responsibly Made for Kids’ (PDF 887KB) (Opens in a new window) promise. Examples include Twister Pineapple and Spirello and Haribo Push Up in Europe as well as Paddlepop Chocolava and Tangmo Watermelon in Thailand.
Fewer calories in ice cream
95% of packaged ice cream to contain no more than 250 kcal per serving by 2025.
91% of our packaged ice creams contained no more than 250 kcal per serving by 2015, beating our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan target of 80%.
We reached 93% by 2020, and now we’re pushing to get to 95%. Treats like ice cream contribute to wellbeing and pleasure and we’re working hard to reduce calories without sacrificing taste so people can enjoy them as part of a balanced diet.
Our Breyers CarbSmart range in North America includes options in pint or tub format with only 110-130 kcal per 2/3 cup serving, and in 2020 we launched Guuud Greek Yoghurt ice cream in the UK with only 84 kcal per stick.
Among our pleasure brands, such as Magnum, we have many products that have fewer than 250 kcal per serving, like Magnum Classic (110ml) in Europe, as well as many newly-developed products such as Magnum Double Gold Caramel Billionaire, which we recently launched in Europe, Turkey and Australia in sticks and tub format; Magnum Matcha in China; and Magnum Ruby which is available worldwide. Ben and Jerry’s Moo-phoria has been on sale since 2018 and has fewer calories and less fat than regular Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
In many brands, we offer mini versions of our consumers’ favourite products, like Cornetto mini (launched in 2001), Magnum mini (2009) and Ben & Jerry’s mini cups (2014). More recently, we’ve introduced a new bite-sized snacking range in the UK which includes Cornetto miniature cones, Magnum bites and Wall’s mini bites. We’re continually striving to improve our portfolio through reformulation, and by growing the range of smaller-sized ice creams, to offer great-tasting choices with less sugar and fewer calories.
85% of our Foods portfolio to help consumers reduce their salt intake to no more than 5 g per day by 2022.
The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of no more than a teaspoon of salt – that’s about 5 grams. But around the world, the average person eats roughly twice this maximum amount. This is a concern, as there is a connection between salt intake and blood pressure. With 80% of all adults at risk of cardiovascular disease related to their blood pressure, salt reduction can have a huge impact on public health.
According to the WHO, we could prevent 2.5 million deaths each year if we reduced global salt consumption to the recommended level of 5 g salt per day. Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we set a target to enable intakes of 5 g of salt per day for 75% of our portfolio by 2020. We achieved 77%.
Now we’re aiming to get to 85%. When we create new products, we ensure they meet our target from the outset and for our existing products, we’re reducing salt in a number of ways. These include reduction over a number of years. This means we lower the salt levels every time we renovate a product, and do so in a gradual way that consumers do not recognise the difference, so allowing their palates time to adjust to lower salt levels. This goes hand in hand with replacing salt with other ingredients such as herbs and spices or the natural salt replacer potassium salt.
Good examples of salt reduction across our portfolio over the years are our Knorr side dishes in US, which have 27% lower salt levels and Hellmann’s mayonnaise in Brazil, in which salt levels have reduced by 30%.
Lastly, we’re challenging the conventions around salt by launching zero salt or low salt propositions such as our Knorr zero-salt bouillon cubes which have been introduced across Brazil and Europe. Our salt reduction efforts go hand in hand with governmental and NGO education campaigns to create more awareness about the risks of high salt intake. Salt reduction and education are both vital in achieving local governments’ public health targets to reduce salt consumption.