UK retailers supporting front-of-pack labels

27th November 2014 - Fine Cut
UK retailers supporting front-of-pack labels

The introduction of front-of-pack labels that provide nutritional information on food and drink is leading to consumers choosing healthier options, retailers have stated.

Representatives from Waitrose and the British Retail Consortium highlighted the success of the initiative at the Food Matters Live conference in London earlier this month, Just Food reports.

Since last June, the UK's major grocers have been displaying details about the nutritional value of foods on the front of the packaging. The designs selected for the scheme combine this information with a familiar traffic-light style colour coding system to indicate how healthy items are.

While some academics have criticised the solution as overly simplistic, retailers have insisted that the results of the scheme speak for themselves.

Director of food and sustainability at the BRC Andrew Opie told an audience at the Food Matters Live event that the companies involved in the scheme underwent extensive trials to prove the idea's effectiveness before rolling it out to all their stores. 

"In those areas, particularly where there is a direct comparison, there is evidence to show consumers make a better choice," he said. "We are not pretending this is the answer to everything. This fits into a framework of voluntary regulation."

His comments were echoed by Waitrose's head of health and nutrition Moira Howe, who said her company has seen a notable change in customer buying habits seen the launch of the scheme.

She explained: "What we see is that customers might buy a sandwich that is ambers and greens at lunchtime, knowing that they are going out in the evening. It does help to moderate and help people to make the right choices."

However, some experts have still expressed scepticism about the value of the traffic light system. Professor Jack Winkler, MRC human nutrition research at the University of Cambridge, for instance, said that while putting clear nutritional information on the front of product labels is a big step forward in helping consumers make the right decisions, the colour coding and guidance for daily recommended amounts are flawed.

He added that the real end goal should be to influence companies' behaviour, in order for them to focus more on creating healthier foods that will earn a good label.

Posted by Simon Tourle

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