Unilever to set new wholesome meals targets after investor stress

Unilever is to publish diet scores for its meals portfolio, which incorporates Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice-cream, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Knorr inventory cubes, towards exterior well being metrics and set new targets following stress from buyers over weight problems.

The pledge to evaluate efficiency towards six measures, together with the UK’s “excessive in fats, sugar and salt” definition and Europe’s Nutri-Rating, comes after institutional buyers together with €150bn asset supervisor Candriam tabled a shareholder decision on the difficulty.

Unilever, which is the world’s largest ice-cream maker, will set out recent targets by October, and stated it could be the primary international meals group to publish dietary efficiency on this manner. It is going to assess efficiency globally and for 16 key markets by product quantity and revenues.

Bigger rival Nestlé has been engaged on new diet requirements. An inner report seen by the Monetary Instances final yr stated greater than 60 per cent of the Swiss group’s mainstream foods and drinks merchandise don’t meet a “recognised definition of well being”.

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Catherine Howarth, chief govt of ShareAction, a shareholder group that pushed Unilever to make the adjustments, stated: “The transparency promised units a brand new customary for the trade. We hope and anticipate that others will comply with.”

Traders with $215bn in property together with Candriam, US healthcare supplier Trinity Well being and the Higher Manchester Pension Fund tabled a decision in January forward of Unilever’s annual normal assembly due in Might, urging the FTSE 100 client items group to set formidable targets for promoting extra wholesome meals.

Ignacio Vazquez, senior supervisor of wholesome markets at ShareAction, stated on the time that, regardless of Unilever’s sturdy sustainability report, “the well being profile of the foods and drinks merchandise it sells stays a blind spot”.

“That is stunning, because the fast progress of regulation implies that well being is a essential [environmental, social and governance] subject presenting an actual monetary menace to its enterprise.”

The decision has now been withdrawn, and Unilever stated it could work carefully with ShareAction and its Wholesome Markets Initiative. Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever’s meals division, stated the adjustments would “set a brand new benchmark for diet transparency in our trade and speed up our optimistic influence on public well being”.

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Unilever’s current targets for its meals and refreshment arm, which has €20bn of annual revenues, embrace doubling the variety of merchandise offering “optimistic diet” by 2025.

The corporate had thought-about promoting its meals and refreshment arm to assist fund a failed £50bn bid for GlaxoSmithKline’s client well being division late final yr. However after a shareholder backlash, Unilever stated it was now not searching for large-scale mergers and acquisitions.

Governments globally are searching for to fight weight problems, which the World Well being Group says has virtually tripled since 1975, however some measures are contentious, particularly in relation to merchandise seen as “treats”.

On the time of the shareholder decision in January, Mark Lynch, companion at company finance boutique Oghma Companions, stated: “Opponents will see the pure logic being that firms like Lindt cease promoting chocolate or Diageo, alcoholic drinks — no shareholder goes to vote for that.”

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