During an internal presentation, Nestle said that only 37% of its food and beverage products meet an internationally recognized health standard. The news, first reported by the Financial Times, means that more than 60% of the company’s products don’t have a rating of over 3.5 (out of 5) on Australia’s health star rating system.
"Some of our categories and products will never be 'healthy' no matter how much we renovate," the company said in the presentation.
Overall, 70% of Nestle’s food products and 96% of its beverages (with the exception of its pure coffee) don’t qualify as “healthy” per Australia’s rating system. The company revealed that 99% of the products in its confectionery and ice cream portfolio don’t meet the standard.
However, Nestle says it’s filling a consumer need that isn’t going away anytime soon. In September, CEO Mark Schneider told Bloomberg that "confectionery and chocolate address a deep human need and are going to be here to stay."
Underperforming on health rating systems
The company said it’s focusing on improving its nutrition strategy, but it’s not using Australia’s Health Star Rating and Nutri-Score. A company spokesperson said these systems don’t capture everything.
“About half of our sales are not covered by these systems,” the spokesperson said. “That includes categories such as infant nutrition, specialized health products and pet food, which follow regulated nutrition standards.”
Nestle said it’s made “significant improvements” to its products over the past two decades -- for example, by reducing the sugars and sodium in its products. The spokesperson said it’s reduced these components about 14-15% in the past 7 years alone.
However, its portfolio still “underperforms against external definitions of health in a landscape where regulatory pressure and consumer demands are skyrocketing,” the company’s presentation noted.
“We believe that a healthy diet means finding a balance between well-being and enjoyment. This includes having some space for indulgent foods, consumed in moderation. Our direction of travel has not changed and is clear: we will continue to make our portfolio tastier and healthier,” the spokesperson said.
Most unhealthy products
The presentation revealed some of the most unhealthy products that Nestle puts out:
Hot Pockets pepperoni pizza. One serving contains 48% of the daily sodium allowance.
DiGiorno’s three meat croissant crust pizza. One serving contains 40% of the daily sodium allowance.
Orange-flavored San Pellegrino drink. The beverage has 7.1g of sugar per 100 ml.
Nesquik's strawberry-flavored milk powder. The beverage, which the company touts in advertising as “perfect at breakfast to get kids ready for the day,” has 14g of sugar in a 14g serving.