Improving nutrition

Improving nutrition

Better products, better diets, better lives.

By 2050, a global population of over 9 billion people will demand 70% more food than is consumed today. Feeding this growing population nutritiously and sustainably will require substantial improvements to the global food system. Agriculture and food are a common thread across all 17 of the United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The issues – from soil health to public health – are complex and interconnected, and cannot be solved by addressing food production or consumption separately. The nutrition pillar of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan contributes to a number of these Global Goals, most explicitly: Goal 1 No poverty; 2 Zero hunger; 3 Good health and well-being; and 17 Partnerships for the goals.

We are committed to producing safe, high quality, nutritious food that is accessible to all, with respect for the environment and less waste, benefiting the livelihoods of food producers, and improving the nutrition and well-being of consumers. More than 1 billion people enjoy our foods and drinks every day.

We know that consumers want and expect great tasting food that is good for their health and the planet. We use our scale and reach to enable people to eat healthier diets, making it easier for people to choose products that are right for their diet, lifestyle and budgets. A healthier diet means more variety and seasonable foods; less meat, salt, fat and sugar; more vegetables, plant-based food and teas well as whole grains and healthy oils. We also enrich many of our products with essential nutrients to help address micronutrient deficiencies where they are most prevalent.

We recognise the need to participate in fixing the global food system to enable the growing population to be fed with healthy food from a healthy planet. Sustainable Nutrition is our framework for accelerating progress towards a food system that is sustainable from food production through to consumption, and recognises the links between agriculture, environment, food, nutrition and health. In doing so, we will contribute towards the UN Global Goals, and further our ambition to be a more progressive food company.

Our strategy

We are committed to empowering consumers to make healthier and more sustainable choices.

A man spreading Flora on toast

Our Sustainable Nutrition strategy is our roadmap for action on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, with consumers at its core. This means producing safe, high-quality, nutritious food that is accessible to all, with respect for the environment and less waste, benefiting the livelihoods of food growers and helping to improve the nutrition and well-being of consumers.

We put consumers at the heart of everything we do, working to build consumer trust through transparency as well as delivering the targets set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We do this by focusing on better products, better diets and better lives.

A long heritage of quality products

Our brands such as Knorr, Lipton and Blue Band have been offering good nutrition with great-tasting products for over 100 years. Today, our foods and drinks are sold in almost 100 countries. With this scale comes responsibility, so we follow a strict nutrition policy (PDF | 131KB) and have set ambitious nutrition targets that are embedded into our business and R&D strategy.

Our approach to nutrition

We make sure our programme on nutrition responds to people’s concerns and is aligned with guidance from public health authorities, such as the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013–20. We address three important elements of people’s health: heart health, obesity and undernutrition. These are the areas where our brands can have the biggest impact on well-being - through delicious and nutritious products and compelling communications.

Our nutrition strategy has three parts:

  • Better products. We continually improve nutritional quality. Our Becel, Rama and Blue Band spreads contain essential fats, and our Lipton teas are refreshingly hydrating. We are piloting iron-fortified Knorr bouillon cubes in Nigeria alongside a nutritious cooking programme. And worldwide, all our children’s ice creams, such as Max, Paddle Pop and Popsicle, meet our strict nutrition standards.
  • Better diets. Through our marketing communications, we encourage more nutritious baking and cooking with our Becel margarines and Hellmann’s dressings. We promote healthy recipes on pack and online, for example with our Knorr ‘meal solutions’ products, and are very active in training chefs in restaurants and catering operations.
  • Better lives. Our campaigns encourage people to adopt more healthy diets and lifestyles, a good example is Blue Band’s support for healthy breakfast campaigns in Indonesia and Kenya.

In 2003, we became the first company to use a rigorous, peer-reviewed nutrient profiling methodology to define what better products should look like. And this has evolved into our highest nutritional standards (HNS) which we use for a variety of applications, eg to drive reformulation of our products, evaluate usage of health claims, determine eligibility for marketing to children and nutrition labelling. Our commitment will help hundreds of millions of people achieve a healthier diet.

How partners help us promote health

By connecting with people in inspiring ways, our brands play an important role in delivering healthy diet and lifestyle messages. We engage with a wide range of influencers, including celebrity chefs, food bloggers and public health authorities to help get our messages across.

The scientific understanding of how food impacts health is constantly evolving. So we collaborate with prominent research partners such as the Top Institute Food and Nutrition in the Netherlands, and the Harvard School of Public Health in the US. We also research motivators for behaviour change, for example with the International Union of Nutrition Sciences1. We contribute to the latest thinking on nutrition security and sustainable diets, and share our findings through scientific conferences and peer-reviewed publications (PDF | 366KB). And when we conduct scientific research, we make sure we apply the highest standards of integrity.

We also play a leading role in industry-wide, self-regulating initiatives that encourage better products, diets and lives. We take part in trade associations such as the International Food & Beverage Alliance, Consumer Goods Forum, FoodDrinkEurope, Better Business Bureau in North America and Food Industry Asia. We support broad coalitions and partnerships such as the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) and the World Food Programme. And we work together with other food and drink industries to provide consumers with transparent and trustworthy nutrition information.

Through all these activities, we encourage the sharing of best practice, transparency, meaningful monitoring, and driving real change in people’s diets.

1 Barriers for progress in salt reduction in the general population. An international study. R.S. Newson, I. Elmadfa, Gy. Biroc, Y. Cheng, V. Prakash, P. Rust, M. Barna, R. Lion, G.W. Meijer, N. Neufingerl, I. Szabolcs, R. van Zweden, Y. Yang, G.I.J. Feunekes Appetite 2013, vol 71: 22-31.

Our commitment

We will continually work to improve the taste and nutritional quality of all our products. The majority of our products meet or are better than benchmarks based on national nutritional recommendations. Our commitment goes further: by 2020, we will double the proportion of our portfolio that meets the highest nutritional standards (PDF | 319KB) based on globally recognised dietary guidelines. This will help hundreds of millions of people to achieve a healthier diet.

Progress to date

In 2016, 35% of our portfolio by volume2 met the highest nutritional standards. This is based on an assessment of every single product in all countries, and across our total retail and foodservice business.

The salt levels in 61% of our food products (by volume) meet benchmarks that are aligned with the WHO-advice of no more than 5g salt per day. 79% of our global portfolio of soft vegetable oil spreads3 contained no more than 33% saturated fat and at least 67% good unsaturated fat in 2016. 91% of our packaged ice creams globally now contain no more than 250 kcals per portion. And since 2010, we have reduced sugar in our sweetened tea beverages by 12%.

2 To measure our progress in nutrition, we use a reporting period that runs from 1 October to 30 September. See our Highest Nutritional Standards (PDF | 319KB)

3 For all other products in our spreads portfolio, including our mélanges, we strive for the lowest saturated fat level possible without compromising on product performance and consumer and customer expectations.

Future challenges

The Global Nutrition Report 2015 showed that progress by governments, health authorities and industry is not being made fast enough to address over- and undernutrition. We need collective action from a wide range of stakeholders to help people change their eating habits. In addition, we are seeing increased regulation on the food industry as a tool to help drive change and to force quicker industry action on nutrients of concern. 

We have a firmly established programme of driving down salt, saturated fat, sugar and calories in many products, and will ensure that they continue to meet people’s taste and quality expectations – as healthy food that is not chosen by consumers has no impact.

We are stepping up our work on micronutrient fortification, for example the programme Knorr is piloting in Nigeria. This will ensure our products reach more people, including those in lower income groups.

We are also focusing more on digital promotion of healthy recipes for our brands, using consistent standards that emphasise key nutrients as well as healthy ingredients.

While we know that much more work needs to be done, and are determined to play our part, we are pleased that our work has been recognised with top ranking in the 2016 Global Access to Nutrition Index.

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Annual Report and Accounts 2016 (PDF | 3MB)


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Taking action

We are delivering even better products so that we can have a bigger, positive impact on heart health, obesity and undernutrition, and we follow a responsible labelling and marketing policy.

Targets & performance

Our ambitious nutrition targets can help hundreds of millions of people to enjoy great food and better diets.

Improving nutrition
Our commitment

We will continually work to improve the taste and nutritional quality of all our products. The majority of our products meet, or are better than, benchmarks based on national nutritional recommendations. Our commitment goes further: by 2020, we will double the proportion of our portfolio that meets the highest nutritional standards, based on globally recognised dietary guidelines. This will help hundreds of millions of people to achieve a healthier diet.

Our performance

In 2016, 35% of our portfolio by volume met the highest nutritional standards, based on globally recognised dietary guidelines.

Our perspective

Meeting highest nutritional standards is a significant commitment. It involves addressing technical issues to make great-tasting products that meet our targets and that consumers will love. Nutritionally reformulated foods that are not chosen by consumers have no impact. And it means facilitating behaviour change amongst consumers – in which a wide range of stakeholders must play their part.

The majority of our portfolio already meets benchmarks based on national nutritional recommendations. We are on track to meet our 2020 commitment, which means that 60% of our foods and beverages portfolio by volume and across all countries will meet our highest nutrition standards. By 2016, 35% met these standards1. This equates to well over half of the servings that we sell.

A great deal of reformulation is underway in all our product categories and we have made significant progress on reducing salt, sugar and saturated fat. We continually share our progress and approach with nutrition and public health experts so that they can also talk about the benefits of our products with consumers.

Our approach has been endorsed externally: we were ranked top performer in the 2016 Global Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI), an independent rating of the nutrition programmes of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers; and in India, we were ranked number two in the India Spotlight Index in 2016. Up until 2015 we also consistently achieved a very high score for nutrition within the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) - however, as we moved into a different industry category within the Index in 2016 our nutrition activities are no longer considered.

We are working hard to deliver these improvements for the billion people who enjoy our food and beverages every day. See a summary of our performance against our global nutrition targets in our top countries in 2016 (PDF | 523KB). We assure performance on the pillars and targets of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan on a rolling basis; the most recent assurance of our nutrition pillar was carried out in 2015 by PwC (PDF | 323KB). See Independent Assurance for our approach to assurance.

1 To measure our progress in nutrition, we use a reporting period that runs from 1 October to 30 September. See our Highest Nutritional Standards (PDF | 319KB).


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Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Reduce salt levels

Our first milestone was to reduce salt levels to 6g per day by the end of 2010. This required reductions of up to 25%. In 2010, we stated that our ambition was to reduce salt by a further 15-20% on average to meet the target of 5g salt per day. In 2013 we clarified our commitment.


  • By 2020, 75% of our Foods portfolio will meet salt levels to enable intakes of 5g per day.

61% of our Foods portfolio was compliant with the 5g target in 2016.


Our Perspective

We are on track towards our 2020 target.

Making further progress will involve continuing to follow the salt reduction plans that we have agreed across our consumer and Food Solutions professional catering business. It will also require all relevant stakeholders – for example governments, health authorities and healthcare professionals - to address the triggers and barriers that people experience in adopting healthier habits, given that current population salt intakes significantly exceed the recommended levels.

Reducing salt

Reduce saturated fat

We are committed to improving the fat composition of our products by reducing saturated fat as much as possible and increasing levels of essential fats.


  • By 2012 our leading spreads will contain less than 33% saturated fat as a proportion of total fat.
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92% of our leading spreads by volume contained less than 33% saturated fat as a proportion of total fat by 2012.


  • A daily portion will provide at least 15% of the essential fatty acids recommended by international dietary guidelines.
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92% of our leading spreads by volume provided at least 15% of the essential fatty acids recommended by international guidelines by 2012.


We want to improve further the fat quality of all the soft vegetable oil spreads that we sell in tubs. In 2013 we extended our commitment.


  • By 2017, 90% of our complete global portfolio of soft vegetable oil spreads1 will contain no more than 33% fat as saturated fat and at least 67% as good unsaturated fat.

In tropical areas, without chilled distribution, the maximum saturated fat content will be set at 38%, as a slightly higher saturated fat level is required to maintain stability of the spreads.

79% of our global portfolio of soft vegetable oil spreads1 contained no more than 33% saturated fat and at least 67% good unsaturated fat in 2016.


Our Perspective

The proportion of our global portfolio of soft vegetable spreads meeting our target dipped slightly from 82% in 2015 to 79% in 2016. This is because we are offering more products with different tastes and consistencies that can be used for baking and cooking as well as spreading. Some of these new products contain a higher proportion of saturated fat than our target, to deliver the taste and culinary performance consumers want.

While we can reduce saturated fat to make our products better, working in partnership with others continues to be important to strengthen our impact, for example we have found that promoting awareness of heart health is often more effective when messages are communicated in partnership with health authorities and healthcare professionals.

1 For all other products in our spreads portfolio, including our mélanges, we strive for the lowest saturated fat level possible without compromising on product performance and consumer and customer expectations.

Providing good fats and oil

Remove trans fat

By 2012, we will have removed from all our products any trans fats originating from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

By 2012, 100% of our portfolio by volume did not contain trans fats originating from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.1


Our Perspective

By 2012, we had met our target to eliminate trans fat originating from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil from our products worldwide. We undertake regular reviews of our products to ensure we continue to be compliant. If products with trans fat originating from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil are found, they are reformulated.

1 We have published our definition and approach to removing trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. See: Melnikov S & Zevenbergen H. "Implementation of removing trans fatty acids originating from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils". New Food 2012; 5: 44-46. This approach focuses on main ingredients in our recipes and does not include traces of trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil that may be found in some flavours or emulsifiers.

Providing good fats and oil

Reduce sugar

Prior to 2010 we had already reduced sugar levels in our ready-to-drink teas. By 2020 we will remove an additional 25% sugar in ready-to-drink teas. In 2014 we extended this target to include our powdered ice tea and milk tea products1.

12% sugar reduction across all our sweetened tea-based beverages in 2016 since 2010.


Our Perspective

We are on track to meet our 2020 target. In 2016 we continued our progress, reducing sugar levels in many existing products and launching new products with lower sugar content in many markets. This led to a 1.2% sugar reduction in 2016 compared to 2015. We will continue to reduce sugar levels in our tea-based beverage portfolio, and to offer beverages and innovations with lower sugar content, while maintaining the taste that consumers enjoy.

1 Our sugar reduction target applies to all ready-to-drink teas, powdered ice tea and milk tea products, liquid concentrates, retail and foodservice and any new formats that are sweetened for the total time period of 2010 to 2020.

Reducing sugar

Reduce calories

  • By 2014, 100% of our children’s ice creams will contain 110 kilocalories or fewer per portion. 60% will meet this level by 2012.

100% of our children’s ice creams contained 110 kilocalories or fewer per portion in 2014, up from 86% in 20132.


  • By 2015, 80% of our packaged ice cream products will not exceed 250 kilocalories per portion1.

91% of our packaged ice-cream by volume contained 250 kilocalories or fewer per portion in 2015 and 2016.


Our Perspective

We have achieved our commitment that by 2014, our children’s ice creams would contain no more than 110 kilocalories. We are one of the first global companies to ensure that all our children’s ice creams, everywhere, are nutritionally responsible.

In 2015 we reached 91%, exceeding our global target that 80% of our packaged ice cream would contain no more than 250 calories. We maintained 91% in 2016 (calculated based on 97% of global ice cream sales volume). To demonstrate our responsible approach across our ice cream business, we aim to be at least 80% compliant in every market and continued our progress towards this in 2016.

1 A portion is defined as: a pre-packed single-serve ice cream product meant to be consumed in one go or 100 ml when sold in packaging aimed at multi-consumption moments such as tubs.

2 Our children’s ice cream target was assessed at the end of Q4 2014; the rest of our reporting assesses progress from Q4 2015 to Q3 2016.

Reducing calories

Provide healthy eating information

Our aim is to provide clear, simple labelling on our products to help people make choices for a nutritionally-balanced diet. Our products in Europe and North America provide full nutritional information.


  • By 2015, this will be extended to cover all our products globally. We will include energy per portion on the front of pack plus eight key nutrients and % Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) for five nutrients on the back of pack.

Our targets will respect local or regional industry agreements as well as the law in each market.

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In 2015, 86% of our portfolio had full nutrition labelling on pack in line with our commitment. In 2016, this increased to 92%1. We are working with relevant authorities to create a positive climate for labelling and to drive further change on our products as well as to help consumers choose healthier products.


Our Perspective

In 2016, 92%1 of our portfolio was fully in line with our commitment. Over 99% of our products communicated nutritional information on-pack or online (at least the Big 42).

Our target is stretching, covering all our brands and markets. We have put in place a global governance model and extensive monitoring activities to check nutrition labelling product by product. However, while we continue to drive our labelling commitment across our total food and beverages portfolio, we have yet to reach our target in full.

As several countries develop their preference for a front-of-pack labelling system we continue to engage with governments, NGOs and other relevant public health stakeholders to work towards globally harmonized transparent labelling systems that drive consumers towards the healthy choice.

1 These figures are based on sales volumes from 1 April 2016 to 30 June 2016 of our Foods and Refreshment (including those parts of the Pepsi Lipton business where Unilever is responsible for marketing and distribution) categories as well as the sales volumes of products from Unilever Food Solutions; it excludes products marketed through other joint ventures and DOBs (distributor own brands).

2 Big 4: nutritional information includes energy (kJ and kcal), protein (g), carbohydrate (g) and fat (g)

Nutrition labelling
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