Report 2: Nutrition responses from food and beverage companies to the COVID-19 pandemic

Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI)
Resource type:
Reports and discussion papers

This document sets out the results of an assessment by ATNI of 39 of the world’s major food manufacturers, which have been included by ATNI in other Indexes (see Annex 1). Although most public reporting on COVID-19 is still ad hoc, and a longer-term strategic shift towards greater resilience is not yet evident, this report shows some emerging trends. It is important to note, however, that even trends within categories are not universal, depending on the type of company, their product portfolios and their locations.

The report focuses on ten main areas of actions, and the trends within those:

  1. Consumer behavior and the financial bottom line
  2. Strategy
  3. Health of the workforce
  4. Resilience in the value chain
  5. Donations
  6. E-commerce and direct-to-consumer
  7. Responsible marketing
  8. Fortification, immunity and the product mix
  9. Engagement with stakeholders
  10. Infant and young child nutrition

Some potentially positive shifts for consumer nutrition across these areas include:

  • Increased cooking at home, with reduced meals out and takeaway
  • Increased consumer engagement on benefits of good nutrition for individual health
  • Companies have published a range of initiatives to support small and medium-sized (SME) suppliers and smallholders, who need particular support during the crisis and beyond  (though updates and duration of initiatives not always clear).
  • Donations – both financial and in-kind – stood out as being a frequent (and frequently reported) aspect of companies’ response (however, the details of quantity and impact are unclear, as well as whether these are donations of nutritious products).
  • Technological innovation and e-commerce has increased significantly with potential to help maintain livelihoods and food security (though healthy foods are not necessarily prioritised).
  • Increased demand for fortified foods in Asia.
  • Some companies have implemented their own COVID-19 education and public awareness programs and established new partnerships with government authorities, local and international NGOs, but it is not yet clear how this engagement will play out in the longer term.

Some areas for improvement include:

  • Most companies’ rapid responses have not addressed nutrition, in terms of product or employee wellbeing (or these actions have not been reported on)
  • Only a third of the companies analysed following good practice in publicly reporting on complying with national/international guidance in relationship to COVID-19 and the workplace. And even fewer companies were found to reiterate or enhance existing commitments to support parents and breastfeeding mothers in the workplace
  • Only one company has explicitly reiterated its commitment to responsible marketing to children during the pandemic.
  • ATNI’s research found that none of the companies’ websites include an explicit statement of continued commitment to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes within the context of the COVID-19 crisis.


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ATNI COVID-19 Framework

Report 1: July 2020


This resource presents evidence or data but has not been peer reviewed