Despite improvement in infant formula marketing, ‘major gaps’ persist threatening level playing field, children’s health

The Access to Nutrition Initiative’s fourth comprehensive assessment of infant formula and baby food marketing​ released earlier this month found several of the largest players in the category have stepped up their compliance with the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes established by the World Health Assembly in 1981, which was created to stop the inappropriate marketing of BMS that public health advocates feared was contributing to a decline in breastfeeding – the gold standard of infant nutrition.

Using a scorecard that compares infant formula companies’ policies, internal systems, information disclosure and “on-the-ground”​ marketing practices, The BMS/CF Marketing Index 2021 reviewed the nine companies that account for $38bn or 52% of the fragmented baby food segment’s global sales.

Of these, Danone earned the highest compliance score of 68% — up from 46% in 2018, followed by Nestle, which improved its score of 45% in 2018 to 57% in the current report. Kraft Heinz took third place and demonstrated the greatest improvement – jumping to 38% compliance from 2018 when it failed to score at all. Finally, Reckitt saw nearly as significant a jump as Kraft Heinz by going from 10% compliance in 2018 to 32% in 2021.

Ongoing noncompliance undermines claims of support for breastfeeding

While these figures illustrate “positive development”​ in implementing the International Code in the marketing practices, Inge Kauer, executive director of ATNI, told FoodNavigator-USA that the companies still fall well short of global health policy standards, and their ongoing noncompliance undermines their claims that they support breastfeeding.