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Our nutrition philosophy and approach

The fundamentals that underpin our nutrition strategy and how we make decisions and work with others.

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Everyone deserves access to good food

We believe in offering healthier options that are affordable and accessible to all, and we’re continuously improving the nutritional profile of our foods and refreshment products.

We also believe it’s our duty to have clear principles to ensure we’re responsible in our marketing, labelling and communications with consumers.

And, as one of the largest food manufacturers in India, we’re taking action to help shape a food system that’s fair for everyone and the planet. We’re driving this through our Future Foods Positive Nutrition Action Plan (PDF 405.24 KB). But we know we can’t transform the food system alone, so we advocate and partner with others to drive change.

We need an entire food system transformation

We aspire to be a force for good in food

We know that to have a healthy business, we need a healthy society. We’re making sure that our brands are part of the solution. Through our brands, our vision is to be a world-class force for good in food – but what does this mean in practice?

It means helping people to make healthier choices, while still offering food and beverages that they can enjoy without compromising on taste. We can’t tell people what to eat, but we can provide more lower calorie and high nutrition content products to make it easier for people to eat healthy diets.

Our nutrition improvement journey began over 20 years ago when we published our Nutrition Policy, followed by our Nutrition Enhancement Programme. We reviewed all our products worldwide to assess their salt, sugar and saturated fat content and defined actions for improvements. This led to us setting time-bound targets in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and by the end of 2020, globally, we had doubled the size of our portfolio of products that meet our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS).

Healthy options for a healthy diet

We’re ensuring our products are made responsibly – with a focus on taste and the planet, and of course good nutrition underpins our approach.

Future Foods

Future Foods is our plan to help people transition towards healthier diets and reduce the environmental impact of the food chain.

Through Future Foods, we are continuously improving our entire portfolio. We do this based on science and delivering it through our brands with purpose as well as partnerships.

Woman eating a sandwich

At Hindustan Unilever, we are committed to tackle the triple burden of Malnutrition in India. The “triple burden” of malnutrition comprises three types of nutritional problems: undernutrition, overnutrition or obesity and micronutrient deficiency. Our strategy is all encompassing and includes all individuals, households, and populations to address the needs of all groups (including priority groups who are at risk of malnutrition) in line with the Government’s priorities.

Our strategy at Hindustan Unilever contributes to the government’s strategy on POSHAN 2.0 where the objective is to contribute to human capital development of the country, address challenges of malnutrition/ nutrition related deficiencies, promote nutrition awareness and good eating habits for sustainable health and wellbeing. The priority populations are based on government and national survey data sources along with robust consumer studies conducted by the company to identify the nutritional & health needs of the priority groups and design product solutions for them.

We are providing micronutrients through fortification of our products, and increasing our ambition in reducing salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories. We engage in research and follow scientific developments so that they can be applied as new sugar, salt, saturated fat reduction technologies and solutions become available.

Our aim is to help people make the transition to healthier eating by providing positive nutrition. Foods that contain ‘positive nutrition’ are defined as products containing impactful amounts of vegetables, fruits, proteins, fibre, unsaturated fatty acids or micronutrients such as vitamins, zinc, iron and iodine. Our goals on positive nutrition are part of our Unilever-wide Compass strategy.

We also work with the Government, Academia, NGOs and all food chain stakeholders to find the best solution which can positively impact public health.

Our innovation approach

It’s important to us that everything we do is underpinned by leading-edge science. Our innovation approach follows international as well as Dietary Guidelines for Indians including RDA-Recommended Dietary Allowances for relevant age group and gender by National Institute of Nutrition (NIN-ICMR) and this applies to our whole portfolio – covering every brand and product.

To help fix our broken food system, serve consumers and grow our business sustainably at the same time, innovation is crucial. Our teams draw on insights from consumers, plus the best and brightest thinking from specialists inside and outside Unilever, to develop food and beverage products that enable people to choose healthier diets for themselves and the planet.

Science-based strategy and innovation

Our Future Foods strategy and our approach to innovation are based on the latest scientific understanding of the role of nutrition for good health and wellbeing.

We use this science to develop great-tasting products that meet the nutritional needs of our consumers and that deliver their health and wellbeing needs. We also use science to underpin all our nutrition commitments, claims and communications, and to help ensure that external guidelines, regulations and policies are based on the best science.

We seek to work with others and invite people to share knowledge and best practice through our Innovate with us portal.

Take our Unilever Nutrition Standards as an example

Science and dietary guidance underpin our Unilever Nutrition Standards and we have two standards that guide our portfolio improvement. The first is our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS), which are intended to cap nutrients to limit in our products. The second is our Positive Nutrition Standards (PNS), which aim to increase dietary recommended nutrients and ingredients that consumers should eat more of, for their and the planet’s health.

Our standards tackle three key elements.

We’ve explained more about the science underpinning our standards in our Unilever Nutrition Standards (PDF 515.87 KB) booklet and road-tested them with external Global including Indian experts in nutrient profiling to ensure they’re robust.

We are also working with partners to incentivise reformulation at scale and enhance the impact on public health. As a step towards this, in 2022 we were the first global food company to publicly report on the performance of our product portfolio against six different externally endorsed Nutrient Profile Models and reported the results here (PDF 192.66 KB) which also includes India. We are advocating for an industry-wide standard Nutrient Profile Model on which every food company can report.​

Science also underpins our claims, marketing and labelling

We’re careful to ensure we can fully support any claims we make. We first introduced our Unilever Nutrition and Health Claims Framework in 2005, providing guidance for nutrition and health claims on our products. Today, this framework ensures a solid scientific and legal basis for our claims, ensuring they are credible, compelling, differentiating and comply with regulatory requirements. We strive that all fortified products are in line with our highest nutritional standards and suitable vehicles for fortification as recommended by WHO and confirmed in a scientific publication.

We also comply with the call to action of the WHO and FSSAI to use iodized salt in all processed foods. We strive to have the lowest possible salt level (within taste and safety boundaries) in our products, but a staple such as iodized salt cannot be reformulated to lower the salt content. Positive nutrition and fortified foods | Unilever

Our Claims Substantiation Committee provides governance, ensuring that the nutrition and health claims we make are underpinned by sound science. We use our Highest Nutritional Standards as guidance for nutrition and health claims and, if local regulations or voluntary industry standards are stricter than our Unilever Standards for nutrients to limit, we follow the stricter standard for any claims. Our global position on claims (PDF 102.39 KB) explains more.

We’re also committed to promoting healthy diets by marketing and advertising our nutritious products responsibly. We’re guided by our General Marketing Principles and our Principles on Responsible Food & Beverage Marketing to Children, Advertising and Marketing details our approach. Additionally, we are also signatories to local pledge such as India Policy on Marketing Communication to Children (Food & Beverage Alliance of India) and comply with CCPA Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements.

Our nutrition labelling policy and position covers our entire Nutrition and Ice Cream portfolios. It stipulates that we must provide key information on pack and adhere to the regulatory requirements as laid down in the FSSAI Claims & Advertising as well as Labelling & Display Regulations. We also take exceptional care to include accurate allergen information that complies with local regulations.

We support the implementation of front-of-pack labels.

Strong governance = high standards

To make sure we maintain our high standards, and that everything we do is based on leading-edge scientific evidence, it’s essential that we have a strong system of governance in place. Governance in nutrition (PDF 58.03 KB) sets out how we do this.

Strong governance structures and clear lines of accountability ensure we deliver our Future Foods commitments. When we consider acquiring new brands, such as Horlicks for example, we look at the fit of the portfolio against our nutrition standards.

We also draw on insights from external experts to challenge our thinking. For example, we asked external experts for their opinions on our Positive Nutrition Standards and the new Unilever Science-based Nutrition Criteria (USNC), which will replace our current Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) from 2023.

We’ve modelled our new criteria against dietary surveys in five of our major markets. We’ve published the results of this modelling in a scientific journal, which show potential public health impacts in all of them. We continue to set product-specific standards, taking into account the role of the product, and we’re pleased that these were well received as they incentivise further reformulation. These external experts also complimented us on our leadership in product improvement.

A worldwide commitment

All our standards, positions, policies and commitments are applicable globally – for every brand, every business group and every region, unless a local regulation is stricter. That means whenever you buy a Unilever product, anywhere in the world, it was formulated in line with our strict policies and standards. Our nutrition standards, positions, policies, commitments, claims framework and marketing are all scrutinized and authorized by our senior leadership via our governance groups.

They are put into action by our Diet & Health Network (DHN), who are our nutrition experts at local, regional, and at a global level. The DHN works in cross-functional teams to do this, and we have robust processes in place that guide our activity in the areas of innovation, product renovation, roadmaps, programmes and activation campaigns.

In addition, we set annual individual and collective targets for our people, with bonuses depending on reaching these commitments (PDF 145.14 KB). For details of our long-term incentive plan, our Performance Share Plan, see Sustainability governance.

We’re working in partnership

To make a difference to the multifaceted problems the food system faces – not least changing people’s eating habits – we need to work together with governments, health authorities, academia, retailers, civil society, consumer pressure groups and the media.

This means working in partnership with others, and advocating for improvements to be made, backed by science.

We’re encouraging others to join us

We work with others to create a positive external environment within which we can grow responsibly and deliver our ambitions. This helps to give us the freedom to operate, shape the future, and be proactive in sharing our nutrition story and inspiring others in our industry to join us. Some of the key areas in which we do this are set out in our advocacy and policy asks below.

Playing our part in change

We believe in global partnerships, as well as local and regional ones, to bring about change on the scale that’s needed.

Engaging with stakeholders explains more about our external engagement, including the trade associations to which we belong.

Downloads

Our Nutrition Improvement Journey: Accessible Version (PDF 176.79 KB)

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