Roughly one in six children in America face food insecurity and, at the same time, rates of obesity, diet-related diseases, and other nutrition and health inequities remain high among many children and families. While it’s encouraging that many companies have voiced commitments to and made some progress on delivering healthier products to consumers, American families cannot afford such slow progress.
What changes does your report recommend food and beverage companies make?
Companies can do better at every level, from the boardroom to the supermarket shelf. Based on the findings of our 2022 U.S. Index, we recommend that companies take actions to improve the affordability and accessibility of their healthier products, specifically for consumers with low incomes; adopt an easy-to-understand front-of-pack labeling system; limit the marketing of unhealthier products; and increase the age threshold for their marketing to 18 years, as recommended by the World Health Organization. Companies should also develop comprehensive strategies to improve the overall healthiness of their products. Most notably, we call on all companies to support and refrain from lobbying against public policies that improve public health and address obesity.
How can we turn commitments into action and achieve faster progress in ensuring U.S. families can access affordable, nutritious food?
One of the major obstacles to progress is the limited accountability measures that help turn commitments into action. However, there is reason for optimism. ATNI has worked with the food and beverage industry over the last few years to safeguard children and adolescents from the marketing of unhealthy products, and 2022 saw both Nestlé and Unilever commit to not advertise unhealthy products to children under age 16. However, we need more companies to make these commitments, along with effective and enforceable legislation preventing the marketing of unhealthy products to children, to ensure that all companies make and deliver related commitments.
Our goal is to transform markets so that at least half of food and beverage sales are derived from healthy products by 2030, contributing to healthy diets for all. As part of our new five-year strategy (2023-2027) – and as ATNI celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year – we intend to take a bolder and broader approach to our work. Over the next five years, we will leverage the data and findings from the U.S. Index and our other benchmarks to convene key actors in the food system to inform policy that influences markets and industry and holds key actors accountable. We will pull on political and financial levers to design markets that not only require companies to deliver on commitments to make their products healthier but incentivize them to do so. Improved investments, better regulation, an empowering legislative framework, and holding the corporate world more accountable will ensure that industry is increasingly part of the solution.