How Nestlé Is Making it a Whole Lot Easier to Access Nutrition
By Wendy Johnson, Ph.D, MPH, RD, Nutrition, Health & Wellness VP at Nestlé USA
As a life-long public health professional and nutrition adviser, I’m excited to share news that’s close to my heart. Today, Nestlé is №1 in the first-ever U.S. Access to Nutrition Index, a ranking of food and beverage companies’ success in using policies, practices, and product portfolios to address nutrition challenges.
While we appreciate the recognition, the real award for us is seeing our progress in improving access to healthy foods and knowing we’re making a difference in people’s lives. The ranking also confirmed that our strategy of embedding nutrition in our processes is paying off.
Three approaches helped differentiate us in this ranking and continue to guide our work moving forward:
1. Make Nutrition Experts A Core Part of the Team
Every one of our brands — from Buitoni to Sweet Earth — has a nutrition expert, normally a dietitian, who embeds with the team. These colleagues play vital roles in product development, from ideas and design to development and even when the final products are marketed to consumers.
Carol Savage, a registered dietitian, played an important part in the development of Coffee-mate Natural Bliss’s new dairy-free coffee creamers, providing insights into plant-based nutrition and managing the nutrition strategy for the brand. At Nestlé Waters North America, registered dietitian Sarah Ladden helps product teams understand the science of hydration and offers advice about how to further educate consumers about drinking the right amount of water every day.
By embedding this expertise in our teams, we ensure that nutrition is a core consideration in each brand, working in lock step with consumers’ needs and wants.
2. Put Our Products into a Bigger Picture
We know our products live in a larger world. While we’re in 97% of American kitchens, we also understand that not every meal necessarily includes a Nestlé product. So, we put a lot of thought into how our foods fit into a holistic diet.
Take ice cream, for example. When we develop it, we think about how you’re going to enjoy it. People don’t eat ice cream as a staple, but rather as an occasional treat. We think of our foods in the context of how they fit into a broader, healthful diet. Building on that knowledge, we also suggest a Thoughtful Portion. While the nutrition facts panel lists how much of a food is commonly consumed, portion advice right on the package can help consumers understand how much of the product they should enjoy in one sitting as part of a balanced diet.
We’ve also gone further on portions and teamed up with Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to build a coalition of food producers, NGOs, grocery stores, and restaurants committed to providing this sort of portion guidance. Together, we’re looking to help people understand how the foods they eat fit into a complete nutrition plan.
To further drive thoughtful diets, we conduct regular, in-depth nutrition research — like our Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study, or FITS — to understand the eating habits of children. This detailed context helps us develop products to fill critical nutrition gaps. We created a line of Veggie Crisps, for instance, after FITS demonstrated that, while children get 25% of their calories from snacks, they’re unlikely to have a healthy vegetable-based snack option.
We also consider our products in a broader societal context. FITS research published earlier this year demonstrated the important role iron-fortified cereals play in delivering that critical nutrient to children benefiting from the WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. We’re actively sharing this research with nutrition leaders as they develop nutrition guidelines and regulations to serve the public.
By taking this holistic approach, we’re able to develop tasty products that meet real nutrition needs for consumers.
3. Start on the inside… and then go far and wide.
With Nestlé’s incredible size and scale, we know we have the ability — and the responsibility — to help build a healthier future. We want to help people make healthier nutritional and lifestyle choices, so we’re taking action to use our scale for the greater public good.
For us, healthy lifestyles begin at home — with our 48,000 U.S. employees. Among our many efforts in encouraging healthy lifestyles, we label calories in our workplace cafeterias with smart app integration and provide access to in-office gyms or reimburse gym memberships. We’ve also invested heavily in our Nestlé Parent Support Policy which provides up to six months of leave for new parents who are primary caregivers and provides dedicated mother’s rooms at our corporate offices and manufacturing facilities for breastfeeding mothers to pump.
Our size also means that Nestlé products are a fixture in all sorts of grocery stores across the country. In many places, access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food is limited, so we work with a wide variety of retailers — including dollar stores, drug stores and convenience stores — to close those gaps.
“Increasing access to healthy food is not foreign terrain for Nestlé,” says our CEO Steve Presley. “Part of our mission — our purpose, really — is to make affordable access to great-tasting, better-for-you food.”
We’re working every day to achieve that mission.