Health void: Just 16% of India’s products classified as ‘healthy’ with local firms leading the way

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Local F&B companies in India such as Mother Dairy and Parle Products appear to have come out on top in terms of product healthiness in a new listing. ©Getty Images
Local F&B companies in India such as Mother Dairy and Parle Products appear to have come out on top in terms of product healthiness in a new listing. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Health Star Rating, India

Local F&B companies in India such as Mother Dairy and Parle Products appear to have come out on top in terms of product healthiness in a new listing – but overall, just 16% of all companies’ products have been recognised as ‘healthy’ items in the country.

A total of 1,456 food and beverage products in India across the 16 largest F&B manufacturers in the country accounting for over 31% of the processed foods market in 2018 were analysed by researchers from the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI). Assessment criteria was based on the Health Star Rating (HSR) scoring system used in Australia and New Zealand.

“Of the 1,456 products assessed based on the HSR’s ‘healthy’ threshold of 3.5 or more stars out of five, only 16% of the assessed products were considered healthy,” ​wrote the report authors.

“Additionally, only 12% of the products assessed met nutrition criteria for marketing to children, [when analysed] according to the nutrient profile model for the World Health Organisation’s South East Asian Region (SEAR).”

Even the two companies that obtained the overall top scores in the listing – Nestle India and Hindustan Unilever at 6.9 each respectively – did not perform well in terms of product healthiness scorings.

“[For Nestle India], just] 13 products (19%) of 68 that were analysed were found to meet the HSR healthy threshold and the company is estimated to have derived 29% of its 2018 sales from these healthy products,”​ said ATNI.

“[Hindustan Unilever saw] a total of 120 products [analysed, and just] 10 of these (8%) were found to meet the HSR healthy threshold.”

Overall, Nestle India scored just 2.4 out of five stars under the HSR scoring system and a mean healthiness score of 4.8 out of 10, whereas Hindustan Unilever obtained 2.0 out of five stars, getting a mean healthiness score of 4.1 out of 10.

Local brands highlighted for healthy products

On the other hand, local brands such as Mother Dairy and Parle Products were found to shine in terms of product healthiness.

“Mother Dairy ranked first in the [product analysis] with a score of 7.5 out of 10, [whereas] Parle Products [ranked] better than its peers across three product categories: Savory Snacks; Confectionary; and Sweet Biscuits, Snack Bars and Fruit Snacks,”​ said the report authors.

Mother Dairy had 99 products assessed using the HSR, of which 41 products (41%) were found to meet the HSR healthy threshold. This was estimated to comprise over half (53%) of Mother Dairy’s 2018 sales.

That said, Mother Dairy is primarily a milk and milk products firm, which are assessed somewhat differently​ from other products under the HSR system, and its focused product portfolio may have lent it some advantage in this assessment.

Parle Products saw a total of 201 products assessed, of which just seven were found to be considered ‘healthy’ – but managed to maintain a high ranking in terms of healthiness as it ranked either first/joint first across the Confectionery, Savoury Snacks, and Sweet Biscuits, Snack Bars, and Fruit Snacks categories with scores of 10 out of 10.

Of note though was the fact that none of Parle Products’ products were found suitable to be marketed to children when assessed according to WHO SEAR nutrient profile model.

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