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Unilever: A bold ambition to transform the food system

It’s only by working together that the many complex and interconnected issues facing our food system can be tackled effectively.

Published: 22 Nov 2022
Author: Unilever
Type: Member Spotlight

Conflicting and contradictory health issues – like malnutrition and obesity on the one hand, and social and environmental issues like food poverty and food waste on the other – are part of a complex, interdependent system. And they’re all issues that need to be addressed.

We’re working with governments, NGOs and others to fix these issues. Taking a stand explains how we’re driving transformational change towards a more sustainable global food system. Too much food is being lost and wasted, and cutting this down is crucial to fixing our broken food system. If we can tackle food loss and waste, we can also tackle wider issues like food security, greenhouse gas emissions associated with growing foods, and biodiversity. Waste-free world outlines our Unilever Compass goal to tackle food loss and waste.

Positive nutrition

Through our Future Foods strategy we’re encouraging people to eat healthier diets and reducing the environmental impact of the global food chain.

We’re helping millions of people to eat better, by offering affordable and healthier foods and beverages, and encouraging them to cook with healthier recipes. By offering more plant-based foods and meat and dairy alternatives, we’re helping people to eat more diverse and nutritious diets that include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes – food that’s better for people and better for the planet. We’re providing micronutrients through fortification of our products, and increasing our ambition in reducing salt, sugar and calories. Our goals on positive nutrition are part of our Unilever-wide Compass strategy.

Our positive nutrition goals

Stepping up our ambition

In October 2022 we announced a stretching new goal for our portfolio, underpinned by our updated criteria to further lower salt, sugar and calories – Unilever’s Science-based Nutrition Criteria (USNC). Guided by this target, we’re boosting reformulation of our portfolio with the aim of achieving a significant impact on public health. We’ve modelled the updated criteria against dietary surveys in five markets (UK, France, Brazil, USA and China) and the results show potential public health impact in all of them. We’ve published this scientific evidence here.

This new goal will be part of our Compass strategy. It commits to ensuring that by 2028, 85% of the servings we sell will meet the USNC. Compared to our current portfolio in 2022, attaining our goal will require around a 10% increase in servings meeting the new criteria. This means another significant step up in the healthiness of our portfolio.

We see health and nutrition as the foundations of our business, while many consumers are increasingly seeing them as the ‘new basics’ for a healthier life. Our progress is underpinned by innovation, delivered by our Hive Foods Innovation Centre in the Netherlands and our Global R&D Centres in the UK and India which conduct research and develop products that address these important topics.

A comprehensive strategy

Beyond consumers’ desire for better nutrition, many organisations support our Future Foods approach, which makes us believe we’re on the right track. The Global Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI), for instance, has considered that Unilever is taking a comprehensive approach to tackling all forms of malnutrition and that our Future Foods commitments aim to support a global food systems transformation. And in the recent ATNI US Index 2022, we were ranked number 1 out of 11 of the largest food and beverage manufacturers active in the US.

Our strategy has also been recognised by investor network FAIRR, who ranked us first for our engagement on promoting diverse, sustainable proteins in 2021 and again in 2022. The World Benchmark Alliance’s 2021 Food and Agriculture Benchmark placed us first out of the world’s 350 most influential food companies for our environmental, social and nutritional impact.

In fact, Future Foods is building on a strong track record as over 2010–2020 we improved our foods and beverages through the targets in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

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