Our nutrition strategy

Around the world concern is rising about the role that nutrition plays in public health.

Helping people make healthy choices

Our aim is to enable people to make healthy food choices.

Our biggest contribution is through our products: innovating to provide products that can form part of a healthy, balanced diet. But we can also make a difference by promoting healthy diets and lifestyles as part of our consumer communication and advocacy.

Our strategy is to:

  • continue to improve the taste and nutritional quality of all our products

  • develop new products that meet consumers’ changing needs and to expand consumer choice 

  • provide consumers with clear nutritional information to enable them to make healthy food choices 

  • take a responsible approach to marketing, particularly as regards marketing to children 

  • use our marketing and communications expertise to encourage our consumers to adopt healthy diets and lifestyles, and

  • improve the health and nutrition of our employees.

Based on our product portfolio and nutritional expertise, we focus on three key health benefit areas where we can make the most impact. These are helping people achieve:

  • a healthy heart: maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system

  • a healthy weight: keeping a healthy body weight, and

  • healthy growth and development, especially important for children.

These areas will increasingly drive our activities to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

A set of ambitious targets

As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we have a set of ambitious targets for our nutrition portfolio. Firstly, we have committed to double the proportion of our portfolio that meets the highest nutritional standards by 2020. We take globally recognised dietary guidelines as our reference point. We have also set targets to reduce levels of salt, saturated fat, sugar and calories, to remove trans fats, to improve heart health and to provide healthy eating information.

The impact of diet on health

As lifestyles change, there is continuing concern about the effect of diet on public health.

People are living more sedentary lives and calorie-rich foods are more available and affordable. The result is a higher incidence of obesity, caused by people consuming more calories than they expend.

A healthy diet needs the right balance of fat (avoiding an excess of saturated and trans fat), not too much salt and plenty of fruit and vegetables – otherwise the risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses is increased.

At the same time, millions of people around the world remain hungry or lack sufficient essential nutrients in their diets. Developing and emerging countries in particular face the double burden of overnutrition and undernutrition.

The role we can play

We can play a positive part in providing solutions to overnutrition and undernutrition. This is an opportunity for us not only to make a difference to people’s health and well-being but also to achieve our ambitious growth objectives. To do this, we need to offer products that meet the needs of consumers, who are growing more conscious of the need for healthy diets and lifestyles but who still want delicious foods that are easy to prepare.

Our efforts to respond to these needs are at the heart of our Sustainable Living Plan. These commitments are not new. 2013 sees us complete ten years of our Nutrition Enhancement Programme. This pioneering programme remains focused on reducing levels of salt, saturated and trans fats, and sugar across our entire portfolio of retail and foodservice products.

Working with nutrition and health experts and advisers

When developing and launching our products and campaigns, we seek the advice of nutrition and health experts. In addition, our community of around 200 nutritionists maintains relations with many local experts and organisations to share knowledge and insights on the scientific, nutritional and health issues relevant to our brands.

We need to work together in driving better public health outcomes. Our relationships with the nutrition and health community play a critical role in establishing and fostering these outcomes.

See Nutrition partnerships for more on our collaborative efforts.

External recognition

In 2012, Unilever led the Food Producers sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for the 14th consecutive year. For the third year in a row, we scored 100% for Health and Nutrition, a specific criterion for the Food and Beverage industry.

We also participated in the inaugural Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI). Unilever was rated second overall in the Global Index 2013, published in March. The Index publicly rates the world's 25 largest food and beverage manufacturers on their nutrition-related policies, practices and performance.

Unilever was rated number one in the Products, Lifestyle and Engagement categories, with judges praising the scale and strength of the Nutrition Enhancement Programme, strong partnerships with stakeholders, and the scope and independent evaluation of Lamplighter, our programme to improve health and well-being among employees.

We were also named the best company at tackling the issue of undernutrition, winning acclaim for our innovative pricing and distribution practices.

Unilever’s approach to addressing poor nutrition was hailed as ‘comprehensive’, including our focus on developing products rich in vitamins and minerals to overcome nutritional deficiencies among low-income consumers in the developing world.

The research was funded by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Welcome Trust.