Nestlé UK&I – Written evidence (FPO0052)

 

  1. Introduction

Nestlé is a major food and drink company, offering over 80 UK brands and employing almost 8,000 people in 20 sites across the UK and Ireland. Over two billion Nestlé products are sold each year in the UK and Ireland, and 97% of UK households consume a Nestlé product at some point.

 

We welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to this inquiry and to consider the central question of how to make a healthy, sustainable diet accessible and affordable for everyone. In recent years there has been a conflation of health and sustainability, with an understanding that the global food system needs to rise to the challenge of delivering sustainable, healthy diets for all. As highlighted in the EAT-Lancet Commission report released earlier this year, to enable the planet to healthily and sustainably feed a projected global population of 10 billion by 2050, changes to the global food system need to accelerate so it can provide adequate nutrition for all[1].

 

As the world’s largest food and drink company we recognise the size and transformative nature of the changes required by the food industry, and acknowledge the contribution we can make by creating healthy, enjoyable food that is responsibly produced. With a wide portfolio of products, our reach across the lives of consumers brings responsibility and opportunity – to help improve the health of those who buy our products, and the opportunity to do so by improving the nutritional content of what they buy. We believe that our experience, innovation and broad product offer mean that we can have a meaningful influence in shaping a better world and inspiring people to live healthier lives.

 

To achieve this there are various production and marketing mechanisms which we can and do adopt, from reformulation and portion size to packaging and advertising, to ensure that our products are responsibly promoted to all consumers. However, to ensure a sustainable and healthy diet for all we believe it is important to take a whole-systems approach, looking more holistically at a broad range of factors.

 

Nestlé appreciates and acknowledges the Committee’s preference for concise submissions, and as such we have focused on the areas of the consultation where we believe we can add most value. This submission addresses the broad themes of the consultation, looking in particular at the role of food production and the food industry in promoting healthy and sustainable diets that are accessible and affordable for all; and a case study looking at the impact that interventions at a local authority level can have in promoting healthy eating in their local communities.

 


  1. Diet, Obesity and Public Health

The consultation asks in what key ways diet impacts on public health, and whether sufficient progress has been made in tackling childhood obesity (Q2).

 

At Nestlé we take our public health responsibilities very seriously and share the concerns of government and others about obesity and diet-related diseases. We are determined to play a full part in delivering the change that is needed to improve the nation’s health by enabling them to access a healthy and sustainable diet, recognising that as part of a holistic approach dietary changes can lead to significant health benefits.

 

Childhood obesity is a significant issue for both society and Government, with almost one third of UK children overweight or obese, and younger generations becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer. This also has significant public health impacts, leading to long-term life-limiting conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and impacting on people’s ability to lead healthier lives. Nestlé has actively sought to engage in the Government’s proposals around Childhood Obesity, both through voluntary action and constructive engagement on regulatory proposals.

 

With childhood obesity rates continuing to increase it is clear that more progress needs to be made in addressing it and we are committed to working constructively with Government and other stakeholders in order to do so. We recognise the need to do the right thing and to support families to lead healthier lives while also acknowledging that there are a number of factors that contribute to this rise in childhood obesity. Rather than looking at these in isolation we believe that a holistic approach is required, looking at the broad range of mechanisms that have an impact on consumer health.

 

Case Study: PhunkyFoods Programme

One example of our work in combating childhood obesity is through providing nutritional and healthy living guidance in schools.

 

The consultation seeks views on the role of local authority initiatives in promoting healthy eating within their local populations (Q4). Since 2014 Nestlé has funded the PhunkyFoods Programme, working with 362 primary schools in seven local authorities where our UK factories are located, to help educate and empower children and their families to live a healthier lifestyle.

 

The programme builds capacity and sustainability within schools by training existing school staff to deliver healthy lifestyle messaging throughout the school day: through the taught curriculum, in breakfast and after-school clubs, and at lunch and snack times. A local PhunkyFoods Engagement and Development Coordinator (EDC) is employed in each locality, working closely with each school to help create a culture and ethos of healthy living by embedding the PhunkyFoods Programme throughout the school.

 

In addition to all schools running the award-winning PhunkyFoods programme of lesson plans and healthy-lifestyle related activities, 129 primary schools on the programme have completed school health action plans to help them commit to and implement changes in line with a whole-school approach to health. Nestlé funding has also been used to develop and establish a peer-to-peer healthy lifestyle mentoring scheme for Year 5 students. Over the past three years 763 Year 5 pupils have been trained as PhunkyAMBASSADORS; developing and delivering health promotion interventions across their primary schools to their fellow students with the support of the PhunkyFoods Programme.

 

With the programme reaching over 54,000 children and their families each year, the cumulative impact of our ongoing partnership is significant. To date 1,749 members of teaching staff have received PhunkyFoods training, and of those more than 86% reported improved confidence in delivery of healthy lifestyle messages post-training. Additionally, 81% of teachers reported that their schools now deliver healthy lifestyle messaging more frequently than they used to prior to the PhunkyFoods Programme running in their school.

 

More information about Nestlé’s partnership with the PhunkyFoods programme and a case study of a Nestlé-supported school in Carlisle can be accessed on the case study[2] page of their website.

 

 

  1. The Role of Food Production and the Food Industry 

The consultation asks what impact food processes (Q6) and outlets (Q7) have on the average diet and choice of consumers in the UK.

 

The breadth of our product portfolio means we have a significant reach across the lives of consumers, and as such there are a range of mechanisms available for us to impact upon consumer dietary choices. The consultation document highlights a number of these which we have addressed in turn below.

 

3.1 Product reformulation

Nestlé believes that product innovation and reformulation should be at the centre of a holistic strategy to promote healthy and sustainable diets, one which improves health while ensuring that consumers have products they want and enjoy.

 

Nestlé is at the forefront of innovation within our industry and is a world-leader in investment in people and R&D, which has helped to deliver calorie/sugar/saturated fat/trans fat/salt reductions in a range of products and categories. In our view, creating a policy environment in which the whole of the industry is incentivised to invest in new ways of producing healthier products should be a key objective for policymakers across the whole of the UK.

 

In 2015 we made a commitment to decrease the sugar in our portfolio by 10%, and have reduced the amount of sugar in our confectionery portfolio by 10% since 2017 and across our breakfast cereals portfolio by 15% since 2010. Over the past three years, we have removed more than 60 billion calories and 2.6 billion teaspoons of sugar from across our entire food and drink portfolio[3], while working to increase the amount of ‘positive’ nutrients in our products. This has been achieved by reformulation, such as adapting our flagship KITKAT brand to boost its milk and cocoa content, allowing us to remove over 1,500 tonnes of sugar and 3 billion calories since 2017, and innovation, seen in the creation of 30% reduced sugar versions of Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles and Randoms. These contain 10% less calories than the standard product and are in line with PHE 2020 sugar confectionery thresholds for the UK.

 

As a company we have played an active role in investing in R&D to improve the nutritional profile of our products, which has enabled us to offer a broader range of healthier alternatives to consumers. However, for new and reformulated products with more favourable nutritional profiles to be successful, there needs to be opportunities to advertise, sample and provide visibility.

 

The Government has proposed the introduction of limitations to advertising across broad ranges of products categorised as High in Fat, Sugar or Salt (HFSS). These do not distinguish between those whose nutritional profile have been improved and those that have not, meaning producers are faced with the possibility of being unable to showcase the healthier alternatives. Were companies unable to make consumers aware of the healthier versions of these foods, we would be unable to encourage them to make healthier choices, taking away one of the biggest incentives for innovation and reformulation. This would have serious consequences for future products and in turn the potential positive impact on consumers.

 

3.2 Portion size

Recognising the impact that packet size can have on the consumption of our products, in recent years we have been providing more on-pack guidance about sharing and portions on relevant products to visually help consumers recognise responsible portion sizes. Our confectionery, breakfast cereal, ice cream and Maggi meal packs have images depicting the correct portion size and we have rolled out a reclose function for multi-serve products.

 

In 2014, we made a commitment to ensure that all of our single serve confectionery and ice cream products contain less than 250 calories per single serving. We also have a range of confectionery items that contain less than 100 calories per single serve product, and manufacture a number of our most popular ice cream products in smaller portions to offer consumers choice.

 

3.3 Labelling and Packaging

As an organisation we are committed to providing nutritional information and advice on all of our labels to make it as easy as possible for consumers to make informed choices.

 

Within the UK we have been an industry-leader in labelling for a number of years, and in 2005 we were the first confectionery company in the UK to display calorie information on the front of all of our products. In 2006 we added full Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) information across most of the Nestlé UK&I product range. In 2013, as part of our commitment under the Public Health Responsibility Deal, we adopted the government’s front-of-pack colour coded nutrition labelling system, which provides a nationwide standard for food and drink product labelling.

 

In 2017 we joined the Food Foundation’s Peas Please pledge to encourage vegetable consumption in the UK, recognising the part that labelling and packaging can play in impacting on consumer behaviour. As part of this we committed to including recommendations on all of our Maggi range of dry recipe mixes, stock cubes and stock pots that these are eaten with at least two portions of vegetables per serving. Through our Maggi Meal recipes we have suggested 43% more portions of fruit and vegetables since 2017, and our Maggi So Juicy and So Tender on-pack recipes provide 2 of 5 a day per serving and are under 600kcal.

 

3.4 Advertising

At Nestlé we recognise the multitude of pressures that parents are under, including ensuring that their families have access to a balanced diet. We acknowledge the influence that advertising can have in food choices and accept that responsibility comes with marketing products, recognising the need to support parents and families with healthy eating.

 

As such we have sought to take an industry-leading approach in the prevention of irresponsible marketing to children. In addition to adhering to rigorous external rules governing this area, we have developed stringent UK-level internal policies on advertising which are audited by our global head office, demonstrating our own commitment to this issue.

 

Our policies include a ban on the marketing of HFSS products to children under the age of 16 and on outdoor advertising within at least 100m of nurseries, primary and secondary schools, playgrounds and amusement parks; the promotion of products being consumed in a responsible manner and as part of a healthy, balanced diet; a need for items, prizes and premiums to offer direct value to the gatekeeper (e.g. educational) and for existing owned brand equity characters to be used on pack or product only[4].

 

Within infant nutrition, we are supportive of measures to encourage breastfeeding and reinforce government advice that says infants should be solely breastfed until they are six months old. We are also fully compliant with EU regulations and do not advertise any infant formula designed for babies under six months of age[5]. In addition to this, our weaning foods are advertised as being suitable from 6 months, in line with current guidance.

 

More broadly, our marketing policies commit to advertising products in moderation, with portion sizes that are appropriate to the target audience and social context, and wherever possible and appropriate our food and drink advertising should depict an active, rather than sedentary, lifestyle.

 

  1. Regulation

The consultation asks what more can be done to encourage the food industry to support and promote healthy and sustainable diets (Q8).

 

Nestlé seeks to be a constructive partner for Government when establishing regulation for the wider food industry, to build healthier sustainable futures for all. We have supported voluntary action by industry for a number of years and were one of the leading supporters of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, working towards the 20% sugar reduction by 2020 since its inception.

 

While voluntary measures have had some success to date, we believe it is time to start exploring a wider range of potential measures for the whole food industry to improve the health of consumers, recognising that good regulation has an important role to play within an overall strategy.

 

We viewed the 2017 Childhood Obesity Plan as something of a watershed in public health policy for the food and drink industry, as it included regulation for the first time, through the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy, alongside voluntary measures. Whilst the 2017 plan was the start of the conversation, and further chapters have followed, Nestlé remains interested in exploring further the potential role of regulation in future health policy.

 

However, from our perspective, any policy to promote healthy and sustainable diets should be based on the following four principles:

 

  1. Sustainability and Food Waste

As an organisation we are committed to limiting the impact we have on the planet and encouraging more sustainable behaviour. A significant part of this is through food waste, and to tackle this we joined colleagues in signing up to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap in 2018, a ground-breaking industry wide programme developed by IGD and WRAP to halve food waste by 2030.

 

By taking a ‘farm to food’ approach, the Roadmap encompasses the entire supply chain, with the support of business, Government and the UK’s largest food trade bodies, recognising that we need to work together to address this issue at the pace and scale required. The Roadmap clearly shows the action large companies like Nestlé need to take to address food waste in their own operations and supply chain, and how to engage with consumers to help them to reduce their food waste. As part of this we became one of the first manufacturers in the UK to publish data[6] about our food waste.

 

Since signing up to the pledge, and in working towards our 2030 target, we have adopted new and innovative approaches to minimise our food waste. In 2017 we entered into partnership with Company Shop, the UK’s largest redistributor of surplus food products[7]. The programme has had the twin impacts of providing an economically sustainable way for manufacturers to tackle operational food waste, while increase the levels of charitable redistribution.

 

It is estimated that through our partnership with Company Shop, Nestlé will increase charitable redistribution from its UK operations by the equivalent of two million meals per year in addition to the products that already go to food waste charity FareShare. This enables us to make a hugely positive impact on communities while reducing food waste.

 

  1. Research into analysis of links between factors

The consultation asks if sufficient research has been conducted to provide a robust analysis of the link between factors such as poverty, health inequalities and food production (Q13). Nestlé recently commissioned research into health inequalities, seeking to understand why these exist across different groups and what we can do to help in addressing them.

 

Our consumer insights research indicates that there is a clear relationship between health engagement and actual nutrition – those who are more health-aware are more likely to be nutritionally healthy, and vice versa.

 

When looking more closely at the data, 22.3% of low affluence families[8] fall into the lowest level of nutritional awareness and actual health, compared with 14.9% of the total population. These families are also much less likely to be engaged in health regardless of the nutritional content of their food, suggesting that there may be other barriers to adopting nutritionally healthier diets.

 

The research highlighted a broad range of opportunities for Nestlé to assist consumers in leading healthier lives, supporting a whole-systems approach that includes product reformulation and innovation as well as the role Nestlé could play in educating consumers about the benefits of a healthier diet and encouraging active lifestyles.

 

This work is ongoing, with the recommendations informing our future thinking on this important issue, and we would be happy to share further insights from our research with the Committee at a later stage.

 

Nestle UK & I

12 September 2019


[1] Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems

[2] PhunkyFoods Programme Case Studies - Headteacher at Bishop Harvey Goodwin Primary School, Carlisle (July 2018)

[3] Nestlé UK & Ireland, Contributing to a healthier future, 2018

[4] Nestlé Marketing Communication to Children Policy

[5] Nestlé Infant Formula Marketing

[6] WRAP Food surplus and waste reporting template

[7] Nestlé and Company Shop ensure good food is not going to waste (7 December 2017)

[8] For the purposes of our research, low affluence families are defined as those with an income of less than £30,000 per year.