Before 2013, there was no easy way for consumers to track whether food and beverage corporations were focused on the public’s best interests. Fortunately, there are now several ways to hold the industry accountable. An online database called the Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) was created by the Access To Nutrition Foundation (ATNF). This is a non-profit corporation based in the Netherlands and it’s funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Children’s Investment Fund. The organization is completely devoted to making fair, unbiased assessments of food and beverage manufacturers based on their nutrition policies and approaches. Data comes from a variety of sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition to the ATNI, there is now the U.S. Spotlight Index. This is a new ranking system that was developed in 2018 to give the stakeholders of major food and beverage manufacturers the ability to track companies’ responses to nutrition and food industry patterns around the world. There are two metrics by which major corporations are ranked: corporate profile and product profile.
A company’s corporate profile is scored based on their policies, practices, and transparency regarding affordable and healthy foods and beverages. The score takes into account several categories, such as quality, affordability, and accessibility, among others. The average Corporate Profile score was 3 out of 10. The Swiss company, Nestle, took the lead with a score of 5.3, Unilever was in second place (4.7) and PepsiCo placed third (4.4).
To score product profiles, they used a nutrient profiling system which ranked foods according to their nutritional composition. The focus was on preventing disease and promoting healthy living and companies were given a health star rating based on data. Conagra came in first with a score of 5.8. Kraft Heinz was a close second (5.6) and General Mills placed third (5.2).
The summary of the Spotlight Index outlined both their findings and their recommendations. The results showed that, although the United States has notoriously high levels of obesity-related diseases, existing food and beverage manufacturers still lack the necessary strategies to effectively address the issue. Companies are also not promoting healthy options for low-income and geographically-challenged consumers. The recommendations based on these findings were that lines of product choices need to include healthier options, and there needs to be an increase in availability for all economic and geographical groups. Businesses also need to work harder to market healthy food choices and they need to provide complete transparency. In addition, foods and beverages produced should aim to meet the dietary guidelines set forth by the US government.