Improving nutrition

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Partnership For The Goals
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Responsibly delicious

We believe in offering delicious products that provide goodness and have a positive impact on health.

Pot of food on a table

The double burden of malnutrition

Many people realise that what they eat influences their health, their mood, and how much they can get done each day. There has never been a greater interest among consumers in nutrition and health in this increasingly polarised food environment. According to GAIN, 1 in 3 people lack key micronutrients – like iron and vitamin A – needed to grow properly, live active lives and raise a healthy family. At the same time, 2 billion adults are overweight or obese and 41 million children are overweight.

Micronutrient deficiencies are usually caused by a lack of access to critical foods like fruit and vegetables. These can make people more vulnerable to disease, impair their mental development and decrease their ability to earn a living. As a consequence diet-related non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, account for more than half of the global burden of disease.

Healthier products must be part of the solution

Diet must be part of the solution to tackle the double burden of malnutrition. It means: eating less salt, fat and sugar; introducing more variety and balancing our consumption of meat; eating fruits, vegetables, good oils, legumes and wholegrains; and consuming more plant-based foods and drinks. In addition, we believe that a balanced healthy diet can also contain occasional treats as is reflected in dietary guidance.

The nutritious ingredients in our products already provide goodness and have a positive impact on health. For example, our teas are a rich source of flavonoids. Knorr and Kissan use vegetables as core ingredients, providing vitamins and minerals. And Hellmann’s mayonnaise is made with high-quality sunflower seed, rapeseed or soybean oils – all containing essential fats. We also work hard to minimise nutrients of concern in our products.

Continuing our work on Highest Nutritional Standards

One of the key strands of our Sustainability Framework is to continue the work we started in 2003, under our pioneering Nutrition Enhancement Programme. We formalised this in 2010 as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). Our goal is for at least 60% of our portfolio to meet our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) by 2020. These are based on dietary guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO).

We assess every brand and product (including joint ventures) in every channel and country against our HNS. This means all our consumers benefit from progress against our ambitious nutrition goal. So far, we are well over half way towards our target with 48% of our foods and refreshments by volume1 already meeting our HNS. We are on track to achieve our target by the end of 2020.

Our commitment is supported by specific targets to reduce nutrients of concern – notably saturated and trans fats, salt, sugar and calories. These are set based on sales volumes to reflect what people are consuming. This encourages us to grow sales of products that meet our HNS. A great deal of reformulation is underway in all our product categories.

We have made significant progress in reducing salt, sugar and calories. In 2018, the salt levels in 66% of our food products (by volume) met benchmarks consistent with WHO recommended intakes of 5g of salt per day. And 92% of our packaged ice creams now contain no more than 250 kilocalories per portion. We reached our children’s ice cream target in 2014, with 100% containing a maximum of 110 kilocalories per portion and have maintained this achievement every subsequent year. Since 2010, we have reduced sugar in our sweetened tea beverages by 20%.

By 2012, we had removed trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils across our portfolio. By 2017, 80% of our global portfolio of soft vegetable oil spreads contained no more than 33% saturated fat and at least 67% good unsaturated fat. We no longer report on progress against this target following the sale of our spreads business in July 2018. The infographic shows examples of product improvements in 2018.

Responsibly delicious infographic

1To measure our progress in nutrition, we use a reporting period that runs from 1 October to 30 September. See our Highest Nutritional Standards (PDF | 149KB)

Small improvements add up to a big health impact

We’re pleased that our approach to reformulation has been endorsed externally over a number of years. We were ranked second in the 2018 Global Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI), an independent rating of the nutrition programmes of the world’s largest food and beverage manufacturers.

We continually review our reformulation approach. For example, we’ve recognised that to maximise impact, we must focus on products consumed most frequently and in greatest volumes. We’ve also learnt that taste is still a key factor for success.

On the following pages, you will read about some of the enhancements we’ve made in 2018 – reducing salt, sugar and calories, and providing good fats. You will also read about how we’re strengthening positive nutrition – by providing essential micronutrients and offering more plant-based ingredients in our products. These improvements add up to a big impact on the health of the people who enjoy our products.

Read more about how we are lowering salt, sugar and calories, offering more plant-based products and providing essential micronutrients in our products.

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