Industry Executive Makes the Case for Ranking Food Makers

Hank Cardello posits that evaluating food companies based on the healthfulness of their products would produce healthier products.
January 09, 2019

NEW YORK CITY – Americans love rankings. From “best value” to “safest,” we enjoy finding out how a long list of products, companies and places relate to the competition. Hank Cardello, a former food industry executive who wrote “Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat,” wrote in Forbes that ranking food companies on the “health” of their products would spur even healthier products.

“While some sectors—soft drinks, confections, convenience stores—have stuck their necks out and made commitments to voluntarily reduce calories, unhealthy ingredients or portion sizes, changes across the rest of the industry are coming far too slowly,” he wrote. “Competition and third-party rankings have the power to hold industry’s feet to the fire and spur systemic change, especially when big spending dollars are at stake.”

Cardello lists many industries that have been transformed by rankings, from cars to wine. “So why not assess the food industry’s commitment to making us all healthier? One approach has been to rank progress made by food companies based on ‘input factors’ such as their nutrition-related polices, practices and disclosures worldwide. This Access to Nutrition Index aims to encourage food and beverage manufacturers to increase access to healthy products and thus promote healthier eating and lifestyles,” he wrote.

He would like more to be done, such as ranking companies on their sales of better-for-you products, engaging investor analysts and rating companies on improvement commitments.

“We are now at a crossroads where some corporations have taken steps towards overhauling unhealthy product portfolios, improving their practices and augmenting their transparency efforts to help consumers migrate to healthier eating and lifestyle patterns. But most stick to the old model—lay low and only do what’s necessary for public relations purposes.”