The development of a method for the global health community to assess the proportion of food and beverage companies' sales that are derived from unhealthy foods.
Bandy L., Jewell J., Luick M., Rayner M., Li Y., Shats K., Jebb S., Chang S., Dunford E.
CONTEXT: Corporate engagement with food and beverage companies who produce food associated with health harms is a divisive topic in the global nutrition community, with high-profile cases of conflict of interest increasingly coming under scrutiny. There is a need for an agreed method to support health organizations in deciding whether and how to engage with large food and beverage manufacturers. AIM: The aim of this study was to develop a method to quantify the proportion of sales from food and beverage companies that are derived from unhealthy foods to support organizations in determining which companies might be considered high-risk for engagement. METHODS: The 2015 WHO Euro nutrient profile model was applied to 35,550 products from 1294 brands manufactured by the top 20 global food and beverage companies from seven countries (Australia, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, UK and USA). For the purpose of this study, products that met the WHO Euro criteria were classified as "healthier" and those that failed were classified as "unhealthy". Products were grouped by brand and weighted by the brand's value sales for 2020. The primary outcome was the proportion of each company's sales that were classified as unhealthy and healthier by company and category. RESULTS: Overall, 89% of the top 20 companies' brand sales were classified as unhealthy. For every USD$10 spent on the top 20 companies' brands, only $1.10 was spent on products considered healthier. All companies saw the majority of their sales come from unhealthy foods, including soft drinks, confectionery and snacks. None of Red Bull or Ferrero's sales were classified as healthier and less than 5% of total sales were healthier for Mondelēz, Mars, and PepsiCo. Some companies had higher proportions of sales deriving from healthier products, including Grupo Bimbo (48%), Danone (34%) and Conagra (32%), although the majority of their sales were still derived from unhealthy foods. DISCUSSION: The results presented in this study highlight the reliance the leading food and beverage companies have on sales of unhealthy products that are contributing to diet-related disease globally. The method and steps we have laid out here could be used by organizations in the global health community to identify companies that have conflicts of interest when it comes to engaging with governments, international organizations and public health bodies on issues of policy and regulation.