This article concerns the role of the state and the private sector in addressing Sustainable Development Goal 2, which is to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. We critique the ‘food environment’ focusing on the strategies and policies of the public and private sectors which shape agri-food production and consumption. We use evidence from studies in South Asia to suggest more realism about the contribution of major businesses to public nutrition objectives. We conclude that business policies are dynamic, and for most firms and in many markets, there are genuine challenges in reaching the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ of consumers with nutritious foods. For policy-makers there should be no assumption that public and private sector objectives are aligned. Policy recommendations include stronger direct intervention such as through taxation, subsidies, regulatory incentives, and controls on advertising and distribution with appropriate monitoring and sanction mechanisms, and indirect interventions to facilitate the pro-nutrition operations of small and medium size enterprises.