We must change front-of-pack labelling to help consumers make healthier choices
Addressing the long-term nutritional health challenges facing the UK requires multiple solutions across a wide range of areas. But there’s one key shift that could have a big impact: changing front of pack nutrition labelling to make it easier for people to choose healthier options. With Government currently reviewing front-of-pack nutrition labels, we must seize the opportunity to change to a clear and accessible system that empowers people to make healthier and informed choices.
Multiple traffic light labelling, which is currently dominant in the UK, leaves many consumers confused, limiting its ability to help people in making overall healthier food choices. By contrast, Nutri-Score is an alternative front-of-pack nutrition system that uses an easily understandable format and design, providing clear nutritional information at first glance, and as evidence shows - enables shoppers to make more informed choices.
Nutri-Score is a five-colour coded scale from A to E, each signalling the nutritional value of a product. The first panel, a dark green letter A, shows products with the highest nutritional value. The final panel, a red letter E, indicates those with lower nutritional value. Each product is scored based on a scientific algorithm that considers the nutrients to reduce, like sugars, saturated fat and salt, and the nutrients to increase, such as fibre, protein, fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Nutri-Score is strongly grounded in science and consumer research, with its underlying scoring method developed by the British Food Standard Agency. Rather than telling people what they shouldn’t eat, Nutri-Score helps to point consumers in a more positive direction. It promotes moderation and balance rather than blacklisting of certain products. And cross-category switching between products is easier, as it encourages choosing healthier options between and within food categories.
Research shows that consumers – and particularly more economically disadvantaged groups – find Nutri-Score easier to understand. A study conducted in 2018 that asked consumers questions on the nutritional value of food found that people in lower socio-economic groups understood 92% of the Nutri-Score labels, compared to only 29% of the traffic light system. Nutri-Score is already being successfully used in France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal – and now it’s time for the UK to maximise its benefits.
Supporting consumers to make better food choices can’t wait. The UK has the highest obesity rates in Western Europe – and despite numerous attempts to address this public health crisis, obesity rates continue to rise. Recent NHS Digital data highlighted more than a million hospital admissions where obesity was a factor in the year leading into the pandemic – a 17% increase compared to the year before. It is well established that the lowest socio-economic groups are disproportionately impacted by obesity. So the fact that Nutri-Score is proven to be more accessible and understandable for economically disadvantaged groups is hugely important.
The pandemic has exposed inequalities in society, and there is widespread agreement among businesses, policymakers and consumers that the time for positive changes is now. There is a desire for innovative solutions to long standing issues – and moving to Nutri-Score must be part of this.
Like many other food businesses and retailers, Danone is committed to bringing health through food to as many people as possible. We have supported health through food since our inception, and we want to continue enabling the public to make the healthiest food choices they can. We believe, and the evidence shows, that Nutri-Score can empower healthier food choices where the current system may be falling short – and we’re calling on others to join us in backing this important change. We believe that now is the time to think progressively to meet this challenge in the post pandemic world. By adopting Nutri-Score industry can get ahead of the curve, using the evidence and consumer insights to empower our consumers to make healthier choices.
Author: Rachel Bradford, Nutrition Policy Manager, Danone UK & Ireland