Background: To benchmark and quantitatively assess the transparency, specificity and comprehensiveness of nutrition-related commitments and related practices of the major companies within the French food industry.
Methods: To evaluate the nutrition-related commitments and practices across policy domains such as product reformulation, labelling, marketing and accessibility, the ‘Business Impact Assessment on Obesity and population-level nutrition’ (BIA-Obesity) was applied. A total of 33 French companies were selected using Euromonitor 2018 market share data, including major packaged food and non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers (N=20), quick-service restaurants (N=7), and supermarkets (N=6). During 2019-2020 the publicly available commitments were collected for each company, scored according to the BIA-Obesity, and company representatives provided with the opportunity to complete and verify the collected data. Following performance metrics were included to assess company practices: the median Nutri-Score of product portfolios, the proportion of products with Nutri-Score A or B, the percentage of products (not-)permitted to be marketed to children according to the World Health Organisation Europe nutrient profile model and the proportion of ultra-processed food products as determined by the NOVA‑classification. In addition supermarket flyers were collected over a 6-month period to assess the healthiness of product promotions. Correlations between commitments and performance metrics were assessed applying the Spearman's rank correlation coefficient.
Results: Among the selected companies, 13 companies verified and completed the publicly available data (response rate= 39%). Overall BIA-Obesity scores for company commitments varied between 2% and 74% with a median score of 28%. Scores for packaged food and non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers were higher than those for supermarkets and quick‑service restaurants. The median proportion of foods with Nutri-Score A or B within product portfolios was 38% (range=1%-95%), while the median proportion of non-permitted products was 84% (range=7%‑100%) and the median proportion of ultra-processed food products 63% (range=5%-100%). Stronger company commitments did not translate into better performance metrics.
Conclusions: There is room for significant improvement of both company commitments and performance. Current food industry action does not meet recommended best practices. The French government is urged to regulate food industry practices to create healthier food environments.