Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Original Article
  • Published:

A method to improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages based on dietary recommendations



The increasing consumer interest in health prompted Unilever to develop a globally applicable method (Nutrition Score) to evaluate and improve the nutritional composition of its foods and beverages portfolio.


Based on (inter)national dietary recommendations, generic benchmarks were developed to evaluate foods and beverages on their content of trans fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, sodium and sugars. High intakes of these key nutrients are associated with undesirable health effects. In principle, the developed generic benchmarks can be applied globally for any food and beverage product. Product category-specific benchmarks were developed when it was not feasible to meet generic benchmarks because of technological and/or taste factors.


The whole Unilever global foods and beverages portfolio has been evaluated and actions have been taken to improve the nutritional quality. The advantages of this method over other initiatives to assess the nutritional quality of foods are that it is based on the latest nutritional scientific insights and its global applicability.


The Nutrition Score is the first simple, transparent and straightforward method that can be applied globally and across all food and beverage categories to evaluate the nutritional composition. It can help food manufacturers to improve the nutritional value of their products. In addition, the Nutrition Score can be a starting point for a powerful health indicator front-of-pack. This can have a significant positive impact on public health, especially when implemented by all food manufacturers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • American Heart Association. Food Certification Program – heart-check mark. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Augustin LS, Franceschi S, Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, La Vecchia C (2002). Glycemic index in chronic disease: a review. Eur J Clin Nutr 56, 1049–1071.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (1995). National Nutrition Survey, Nutrient Intakes and Physical Measurements. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Australia.

  • Basiotis PP, Calson A, Gerrior SA, Juan WY, Lino M (2002). The Healthy Eating Index: 1999–2000. US Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. CNPP-12.

  • Bear DJ, Judd JT, Clevidence BA, Tracy RP (2004). Dietary fatty acids affect plasma markers of inflammation in healthy men fed controlled diets: a randomized crossover study. Am J Clin Nutr 79, 969–973.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bladbjerg EM, Tholstrup T, Marckmann P, Sandstrom B, Jespersen J (1995). Dietary changes in fasting levels of factor VII coagulant activity (FVII:C) are accompanied by changes in factor VII protein and other vitamin K-dependent proteins. Thromb Haemost 73, 239–242.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • CNERNA-CNRS (2001). Apports nutritionnels conseilles pour la population Francaise. 3eme edn. Editions TEC&DOC: Paris, France.

  • Conselho Nacional de Alimentação. Comissãde Educação Alimentar (1997). Recomendações para a Educação Alimental de População Portuguesa. Revista Portuguesa de Nutrição 2, 5–19.

  • De Hoge Gezondheidsraad (2003). Voedingsaanbevelingen voor België Online (accessesd December 2005):

  • Departamento de Nutricion de la Facultad de Farmacia de la Universidad (1994). Ingestas Recomendadas de Energia Y Nutrientes Para La Poblacion Espanola. Universidad Complutense de Madrid: Madrid.

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung, Österreichische Gesellschaft für Ernährung, Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung, Schweizerische Vereinigung für Ernährung (2000). Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr 2000. Umschau/Braus: Frankfurt, Germany.

  • Federal Register (1993). Food labeling: nutrient content claims, general principles, petitions, definition of terms; Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims for the Fat, Fatty Acid, and Cholesterol Content of Food. vol. 58, Part IV. Department of Health and Human Services. 21 CFR Parts 5 and 101 [Docket Nos. 91 N-0384 and 84N-0153], RIN 0905-AD08 and 0905-AB68.

  • Ferro Luzzi A, Gibney M, Sjostrom M (2001). Nutrition and diet for healthy lifestyles in Europe: the EURODIET evidence. Public Health Nutr 4, 437–438.

    Google Scholar 

  • Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Adults (2003). A Background Paper. Ministry of Health: Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Food Standards Agency (2003). National Diet & Nutrition Survey: Adults Aged 19–64, Energy, Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat and Alcohol Intake. vol. 2, TSO: London.

  • Gezondheidsraad (2001). Voedingsnormen: energie, eiwitten, vetten en verteerbare koolhydraten. Publicatie nr 2001/19R. Den Haag. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Guia Alimentar Para A População Brasileira (2005). Ministério da Saúde. Brazil.

  • Guthrie H (1977). Concept of a nutritious food. J Am Diet Assoc 71, 14–19.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haines PS, Siega-Riz AM, Popkin BM (1999). The Diet Quality Index revised a measurement instrument for populations. J Am Diet Assoc 99, 697–704.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hammink J (2003). Voedingscentrum pas criteria indeling voedingsmiddelen aan. Voeding Nu 10, 9–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansen RG, Wyse BW, Sorenson AW (1979). Nutrition quality index of food. AVI Publishing Co.: Westport, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heart and Stroke Foundation. Health Check. Canada. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Heart Foundation South Africa The Heart Mark. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Heymsfield SB, van Mierlo CAJ, van der Knaap HC, Heo M, Frier HI (2003). Weight management using a meal replacement strategy: meta and pooling analysis from six studies. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 27, 537–549.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Huijbregts PP, Feskens EJ, Rasanen I, Alberti-Fidanza A, Mutanen M, Fidanza F, Kromhout D (1995). Dietary intake in five ageing cohorts of men in Finland, Italy and the Netherlands. Eur J Clin Nutr 49, 852–860.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Institute of Medicine (2002a). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. The National Academies Press: Washington.

  • Institute of Medicine (2002b). Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. The National Academies Press: Washington.

  • Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation on Energy and Protein Requirements (1985). Energy and protein requirements. Geneva, Switzerland. WHO technical reports series 724 (reprinted 1987, 1991). Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases (2003). Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Geneva, Switzerland. WHO technical report series 916. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Kant AK (1996). Indexes of overall diet quality: a review. J Am Diet Assoc 96, 785–791.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kennedy ET, Ohls J, Carlson S, Fleming K (1995). The Healthy Eating Index: design and applications. J Am Diet Assoc 95, 1103–1108.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kinnunen TI (2000). The Heart symbol: a new food labelling system in Finland. Br Nutr Found Nutr Bull 25, 335–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCance RA, Widdowson EM, Roe MAM, Finglas PM (2002). McCance and Widdowson's The composition of foods, 6th summary. Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • McLennan W, Podger A (1998). National Nutrition Survey. Nutrient Intakes and Physical Measurements Australia 1995. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Canberra.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mensink G (2002). Beiträge zur Gesundheitsberichterstattung des Bundes. Was essen wir heute? Ernährungsverhalten in Deutschland. Robert Koch-Institute: Berlin, Germany.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mensink G, Beits R, Burger M, Bisson S (2000). Food intake in Germany. Ernahrungs Umschau 47, 328–332.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ministry of Health Singapore Department of Nutrition. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • National Health & Medical Research Council (2003). Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults. Commonwealth of Australia. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Nutrition Information Centre, University of Stellenbosch (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fibre, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Online (accessed January 2006):

  • Pi-Sunyer FX (2002). Glycemic index and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 290S–298S.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Polish National Food and Nutrition Institute (2001) Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Rayner M, Scarborough P, Boxer A, Stockley L (2005). Nutrient Profiles: Development of Finaal model. British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Recomendaciones de Nutrimentos para Mexico (1997) Online (accessed December 2005):

  • (1991). Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom. Report of the panel on dietary reference intakes of the committee on medical aspects of food policy HMSO: London.

  • Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2003). Salt and Health. The Stationairy Office. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Soicieta Italiana di Nutrizione Umana (1996). Livelli di assunzione raccomandati di energia e nutrienti per la popolazione Italiana: Inran, Rome.

  • Standing Nordic Committee on Foods (1996). Nordiska Näringsrekommendationer [Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 1996]. Nordisk Ministerråd: Copenhagen, Denmark, Nord 1996:28.

  • The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand (2002). Pick the Tick. The Food Information Program. Guidelines for Tick Approval. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Trichopoulou A, Costacou T, Barnia C, Trochopoulos D (2003). Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and survival in a Greek population. N Eng J Med 348, 2599–2608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • US Department of Agriculture (2002). USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Online (accessed December 2005):

  • US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (1997). Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, 1994–96. Food and Nutrient Intake by Individuals in the United States by Sex and Age.

  • UK salt intakes: Modelling salt reductions Online (accessed December 2005):

  • Voedingscentrum (1998). VCP Zo eet Nederland, resultaten van de voedselconsumptiepeiling 1998. The Hague: The Netherlands.

  • Voedingscentrum (2001). Dutch Food Composition Table 2001. The Hague: The Netherlands.

  • Volatier JC (2000). Enquête individuelle et nationale sur les consommations alimentaires (INCA). Editions TEC&DOC: Paris, France.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weggemans RM, Rudrum M, Trautwein EA (2004). Intake of ruminant versus industrial trans fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease: what is the evidence? Eur J Lipid Sci Technol 106, 390–397.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organisation (2004). Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Fifty-seventh World Health Assembly. WHA57.17.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J A Weststrate.

Additional information

Guarantor: JA Weststrate.

Contributors: CAJN, IMZ, AJCR, RL, CvdK, JAW, GWM contributed to the development of the Nutrition Score methodology. AS drafted the paper and CAJN, IMZ, AJCR, RL, CvdK, JAW and GWM commented upon and revised drafts. All authors gave their approval to the final version submitted for publication.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nijman, C., Zijp, I., Sierksma, A. et al. A method to improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages based on dietary recommendations. Eur J Clin Nutr 61, 461–471 (2007).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


This article is cited by


Quick links