Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

The food industry has an important role to play in creating healthier food environments. Packaged food and beverage manufacturers can take a number of steps to contribute to efforts to improve population diets, including:

  • improving the healthiness of the products they produce
  • providing consumers with clear, easily understood nutrition information on product packaging
  • limiting the exposure of children to marketing of unhealthy foods and brands
  • supporting efforts from governments and the public health community to develop and implement globally recommended public health strategies.
Indicator Result Previous Assessment* What was measured? Source

Food composition**

 

Average Health Star Rating (HSR) of product portfolio***:

 

HSR ≥ 3.5 stars

 

Sanitarium
Nudie Foods
The a2 Milk Company
Simplot
McCain Foods

4.2
4.2
4.2
3.8
3.7

4.2
4.1
4.2
3.8
3.6

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

HSR 2.5 – 3.0 stars

 

Lion Dairy and Drinks
Woolworths (own-brand)
Parmalat
Heinz
Murray Goulburn Cooperative
Coles (own-brand)
Unilever
Aldi (own brand)
George Weston Foods
Goodman Fielder
IGA (own-brand)
The Smiths Snackfood Company
Nestlé

3.3
3.2
3.2
3.2
3.1
3.0
2.8
2.8
2.8
2.7
2.6
2.6
2.5

3.3
3.2
3.1
3.2
2.9
3.0
2.8
2.7
2.7
2.7
2.6
2.7
2.7

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

HSR ≤ 2.0 stars

 

Mars
Campbell Arnott’s
Warnambool Cheese and Butter Factory
Bega Cheese
Coca Cola
Bulla Dairy
Fonterra
Schweppes
Peters Ice Cream
Red Bull
Mondelēz
Bundaberg
Frucor Suntory

2.4
2.4
2.4
2.2
2.1
1.9
1.9
1.8
1.5
1.5
1.3
1.2
1.2

2.3
2.4
2.3
2.2
1.9
1.9
2.0
1.7
1.6
1.4
1.2
1.2
1.3

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

Food labelling

 

Proportion of eligible products displaying the Health Star Rating***:

 

McCain

Sanitarium

Simplot

SPC Ardmona

98%

96%

89%

82%

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

Shahid et al. (2020)

Nestlé

Coca Cola Amatil

Kellogg’s

Mars

Campbell’s Arnotts

Schweppes

Unilever

Freedom Foods

Lion Dairy and Drinks

George Weston Foods

78%

75%

75%

74%

70%

66%

64%

58%

52%

51%

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

Shahid et al. (2020)

Smiths Snackfood Company

Heinz

Goodman Fielder

San Remo Macaroni

Ricegrowers (Sunrice)

Bega Cheese

26%

25%

23%

9%

9%

3%

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

Shahid et al. (2020)

Policies and commitments

 

Average score for nutrition-related policies and commitments of major packaged food and beverage manufacturers

50 out of 100

Assessment of comprehensiveness, specificity and transparency of nutrition-related policies and commitments of the 19 largest packaged food and non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers operating in Australia, using BIA-Obesity tool developed by INFORMAS

‘Inside Our Food Companies’ initiative

Sacks et al. (2020)

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** The food and beverage manufacturers listed have product portfolios that span a diverse range of food and beverage categories. Differences in the types of products manufactured need to be taken into account when interpreting these results. Refer to full State of the Food Supply Australia 2020 report for details of the top three categories for each manufacturer. Results are not weighted by sales.

*** The Health Star Rating (HSR) labelling system, endorsed by the Australian Government in 2014, was designed to provide an overall signal about a food’s healthiness. Each product is given a rating from 0.5 to 5 stars, with more stars signalling a healthier product. Implementation of HSR on food products is currently voluntary for food manufacturers. The government recently announced that their target is for 70% of intended products to display the HSR by 2025. See full State of the Food Supply Australia 2020 report for other indicators including proportion of products that are discretionary foods and proportion of products that are ultra-processed foods.

Source: Deakin University: Inside our Food and Beverage Manufacturers Australia 2018: Assessment of company policies and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition.

Also see: www.insideourfoodcompanies.com.au


Key Findings

Food manufacturer policies and commitments

  • While some food companies have nutrition-related policies and commitments in place, the overall response from the food industry to unhealthy diets and obesity falls short of global benchmarks of good practice.
  • There is considerable room for improvement in the nutrition-related policies and commitments of all food and beverage companies operating in Australia.
  • In the absence of stronger food industry action, government regulations, such as mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling and restrictions on unhealthy food marketing, are urgently needed.

Nutritional quality of packaged products

  • There is large variation in the heathiness of the product portfolios of the largest packaged food and beverage manufacturers in Australia, driven mostly by differences in the types of products manufactuered (e.g., confectionery vs dairy products).
  • Some companies have improved the nutritional quality of their product portfolios over time, but most companies did not seem to be making any improvements.
  • The recently launched Healthy Food Partnership reformulation targets provide food manufacturers with targets for the maximum sodium, sugar and saturated fat content for a selected range of product categories.

Corporate political activity

  • Many large packaged food and beverage manufacturers use a wide-range of strategies to influence public policy and public opinion in their favour, often at the expense of public health. 
  • Several studies have documented how food companies in Australia engage in diverse and extensive practices, such as political donations, involvement in scientific research, and corporate philanthropy, that are designed to avoid, weaken or delay policy actions that would improve public health.

Key Recommendations

  • Packaged food and beverage manufacturers have a responsibility to implement a broad range of actions as part of societal efforts to create healthier food environments. Key actions required include:
    • Prioritising population nutrition as part of overall company strategies, and aligning company nutrition-related policies with global health and sustainability goals.
    • Setting measurable targets and timelines to reduce sodium, sugars, saturated fat, and artificially produced trans fat, in conjunction with government-led programs (e.g., the Healthy Food Partnership).
    • Committing to implement the Health Star Rating system across all relevant products.
    • Implementing policies on marketing to children that effectively restrict the exposure of children and adolescents (up to the age of 18) to the promotion of ‘less healthy’ products and brands.
    • Working with retailers to increase the prominence of healthier products relative to ‘less healthy’ products in-store (e.g., through shelf space and strategic placement) and in promotional catalogues.
  • Governments need to closely monitor changes in company policies and practices, as well as the extent to which companies meet Healthy Food Partnership reformulation targets. If insufficient improvements are made, governments need to consider stronger policy action and / or greater incentivisation to encourage implementation.
  • Governments need to adopt strong measures to limit the influence of food companies on the process of developing policies related to nutrition and public health. Mechanisms to limit industry influence include active management of conflicts of interest, greater transparency in policy development processes, and restrictions on political donations and the ‘revolving door’ (whereby individuals move between senior positions in government and industry).
  • Other stakeholder groups, including investors, need to monitor company action, particularly as part of evaluation of company contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information

Websites

Inside Our Food Companies

Visit the Obesity Evidence Hub for key evidence on obesity trends, impacts, prevention & treatment in Australia. Access evidence related to corporate political activity and industry influence.

Journal Articles

Reports

Indicator Assessment Criteria
Metric

Average Health Star Rating

≥ 3.5 stars

2.5 – 3.0 stars

≤ 2 stars

Proportion of eligible products displaying Health Star Rating

≥ 80%

40-79%

<40%

Median score for nutrition-related policies and commitments

≥ 80

40-79

< 40