by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-industry

Aug 23 2019

Weekend reading: FoodNavigator-USA’s Special Edition on Meal Kits

If you have been reading FoodPolitics.com for long, you know that I love collections of industry newsletter columns on specific topics.  This one is on meal kits.  If you’ve never tried one, these are boxes of ingredients delivered to your door with recipes for what to do with them.

I’m not a user.  I tried two different kinds.   I have to admit that they cooked up into delicious meals.  But, I could not believe the number of bowls and pots I needed to make them, the enormous mess I had to clean up, and the piles of packaging that I had to throw out.

With that said, some of them are doing pretty well, and some are trying new things, according to these articles from FoodNavigator-USA’s terrific writers.

Special Edition: What’s for dinner tonight? The meal kit (r) evolution

Meal kit brands have tapped into a consumer need, but some have struggled to build a viable business model, with subscription based home delivery firms finding it hard to retain customers, and retailers finding it hard to manage shrink on in-store meal kits. The rapid growth of services from GrubHub to UberEats enabling consumers to order pre-prepared food for delivery in 20 minutes without a subscription has also presented consumers with options that didn’t exist when many meal kit brands got started. So where does the market go from here?

Aug 14 2019

The world’s most valuable food brands? In a nutshell.

One small table says it all.

For the record, I’m not related to the top ranked company.

Apr 12 2019

Access to Nutrition Index: the 2018 update

The George Institute in Australia (see clarification below) publishes an annual index holding the ten largest U.S. food and beverage corporations accountable for how they addrss nutrition challenges.

The 2018 Index ranks corporations on their governance, products, accessability, marketing, lifestyle, labeling, and engagement.  Here’s what it looks like.

 

Here’s how this is explained:

Seven out of ten companies claim to focus on improving health and nutrition (all except Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple and Kraft Heinz), as expressed in their mission statements or corporate growth strategies, the objectives they defined related to health and wellness are mostly limited to product development, product reformulation and responsible marketing. Only two companies (Nestlé and Unilever) have defined a more comprehensive set of objectives within their nutrition strategy.

To remind you: food corporations are not social service or public health agencies.  They have stockholders to please as their first priority.  The conflicts of interest with public health approaches are obvious.  That’s why none of them does particularly well on this Index.

Clarification from a reader

I believe you are referring to the US Spotlight Index, a product of the Access to Nutrition Foundation, an independent nonprofit in the Netherlands.  (https://www.accesstonutrition.org).  The George Institute provided research support for the US Spotlight index. RWJF [Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] was a major funder.  The Foundation has also published an India Spotlight Index (2016) and a Global Index (latest in 2018).  Shiriki Kumanyika chairs the Expert Group.

Feb 20 2019

What is a portion size? The British Nutrition Foundation’s answer

Lisa Young, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, has long argued that portion control is the key to maintaining healthy weight.

Now, the industry-funded (see list here) British Nutrition Foundation has issued a “handy” guide to appropriate portion sizes.

I put “handy” in quotes because the system is based on hand measurements.

The guide tells you how many servings you are supposed to have each day from each of the major food groups, and how to tell the serving size for a very long list of foods.

I find all of this hugely complicated, and don’t think you should need to learn what looks like a guide to sign language to know how to eat.

I’m especially suspicious because the Nutrition Foundation is an industry-sponsored group and it is very much in the interest of the food industry to have you take full responsibility for controlling your own food intake.  If you eat too much, it’s your fault for not learning this system.

How about food companies making and serving smaller portions?  Nope.  It’s up to you to take greater personal responsibility for what you eat.

Try this for yourself and see what I mean.

  • The guide is here.
  • The full list of portion sizes is here.
  • A one-page summary is here.
Jan 29 2019

My latest honor: “Crankster!”

I don’t usually pay attention to what the American Council for Science and Health (ACSH) says or does, mainly because it is a long-standing front group for the food and chemical industries, and it predictably supports the interests of those industries over public health (see US Right to Know’s analysis).

But then I read this from the Center on Media and Democracy: Corporate Front Group, American Council on Science and Health, Smears List of Its Enemies as “Deniers for Hire.”

Smeared by the site are scientists Tyrone Hayes, Stephanie Seneff, and Gilles-Éric Séralini; New York Times reporter Danny Hakim and columnist Mark Bittman; well-known food and science writer Michael Pollan; nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle; public interest groups like U.S. Right to Know, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, the Environmental Working Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists; past and present CMD staff, and many other individuals ACSH does not like.

Clearly, I’m in good company.  But what, exactly, have I—a “Crankster,” apparently—done to deserve this honor?  It seems that I:

What can I say?  Read my work and decide for yourself if such concerns are justified.

Sep 11 2018

Why food companies should not have a role in formulating obesity policy

I was interested to read FoodNavigator-Asia’s account of food industry comments on what to do about obesity is Australia.

By all reports, two-thirds of Australian adults meet definitions of overweight or obesity, along with a quarter of all children.  A Senate committee is collecting ideas about what to do about this, including those from the food industry.

Food-Navigator-Asia has taken a look at some of the submitted comments, particularly in light of comments from medical groups encouraging social, environmental, regulatory and medical interventions, and arguing that food companies should be kept out of formulating policies due to their inherent conflicts of interest.

The article quotes three companies.

Coca-Cola Amatil says taxes would be counterproductive because it is already reducing the sugar in its products.

Fonterra (a dairy company) says obesity is not the problem; instead, underconsumption of dairy products is the problem.

Nestlé [no relation] blames consumers; it is trying to reduce salt and sugar in its products but the public isn’t buying them.  It also blames government, which it says should do a better job of educating the public about diet and health.

Obesity poses a formidable problem for food companies making junk foods.  They have stockholders to please.  They cannot be expected to voluntarily act in the interest of public health if doing so affects profits.

That is why food companies should have no role whatsoever in developing policies to prevent or treat obesity.

Jul 6 2018

Weekend Reading: Food Citizenship (I’m in it)

Ray Goldberg.  Food Citizenship: Food System Advocates in an Era of Distrust. Oxford University Press, 2018.

As should be obvious from this cover, I have a special interest in this book.  For more than 20 years, I’ve been attending an annual meeting of food industry executives, entrepreneurs, and a sprinkling of advocates, government officials, and academics brought together by its author, Ray Goldberg, to try to encourage mutual understanding if not agreement.

When the meeting started, Ray was an agribusiness professor at the Harvard Business School.  After his retirement, the meeting moved to the Kennedy School of Government.  It still continues.

This book consists of Ray’s interviews with dozens of people who have attended this meeting over the years.  Ray interviewed people with an enormous range of involvement in food as well as of opinion about what should be done to improve food systems.

If truth be told, I always felt like a spectator at this meeting, and I am enormously surprised and honored to see that my interview comes first in the book, and that Ray mentions it in his introduction and conclusion.

I think the book is worth reading.  Or, as it happens, watching.

Oxford has posted the videotaped interviews online.  Here’s mine.

Jun 15 2018

Keeping tabs on the food industry: Access to Nutrition Index

Access to Nutrition has just published its 2018 global report.  Its Global Index:

Measures companies’ contributions to good nutrition against international norms and standards and includes a separate ranking of the world´s leading manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes (BMS).

The report summarizes its findings:

The 2018 Index shows the world’s biggest F&B companies have stepped up their efforts to encourage better diets, mostly through new and updated nutrition strategies and policies, improved commitments on affordability and accessibility, better performance on nutrition labeling and health and nutrition claims, and more disclosure of information across categories. Nevertheless, ATNF has serious concerns about the healthiness of the world’s largest global F&B manufacturers’ product portfolios.

Access to Nutrition ranks the European companies, Nestlé, Unilever, and Danone, highest on its lists.

Its “serious concerns”?

  • Poorly defined reformulation targets
  • Unclear approaches to making healthy products for affordable and accessibe
  • Continued irresponsible marketing to children
  • Inadequate employee education programs
  • Inadequate support to breastfeeding mothers
  • Inadequate labeling
  • Inadequate support for public health measures

On this last one:

Indeed.