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European consumers are hungry for trustworthy food labels. According to the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), a recent survey shows 85% of consumer respondents in the Netherlands and 84% in Germany distrust food labels due to “misleading tricks” by food makers to conceal the quality of their products.[i]
Given the growing consumer demand for healthy food options amid a booming health and wellness lifestyle, food labels are now a hot topic in Europe, where more companies are starting to use Nutri-Score. Nutri-Score is a voluntary nutritional product labeling system that makes it easier for retailers and suppliers to inform consumers about food products. Using Nutri-Score can help consumers make informed choices by using a standard, straightforward way to share nutritional information. As more consumers demand to know exactly what they’re buying, there is growing momentum toward such transparent information-sharing in the grocery sector.
How Nutri-Score works
Nutri-Score is a simple front-of-pack labeling system that classifies foods and beverages according to their nutritional information. To inform consumers about product nutrition, Nutri-Score uses a colour-coded labeling system of letters and colours that range from A (healthier choices, associated with the colour green) to E (less healthy choices, associated with the colour red). The label evaluates food ingredients for positive ratings (fibres, proteins, nuts, fruit and vegetables) and deducts points for less healthy ingredients (saturated fatty acids, sugar and salt).[i]
Governments support Nutri-Score
Nutri-Score originated in France as a creation of the French Public Health Agency and French public authorities.[i] It was chosen as France’s official nutrient logo in October 2017.[ii]
Since then, public health authorities in Belgium, Switzerland and Spain have also recommended its adoption within the food industry to support consumer wellness and protect public health.[iii] The labeling system has also been validated by the Ministry of Health and the EU and has earned support from the World Health Organization (WHO).[iv]
Their rationale is clear: healthy food can keep consumers healthy. Helping consumers make healthier food choices is a key issue to prevent cancer and other diseases. One study found that foods with lower nutritional quality were associated with a higher risk of cancer. This finding supports the adoption of Nutri-Score for front-of-pack nutrition labels as a clear, simple system to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices.[v] Additional research proves that Nutri-Score has a positive effect on what consumers buy and it can influence food manufacturers to adapt their product recipes by reducing the amount of salt or sugar.[vi]
Consumers crave data
Consumers want more information about products, including nutrition, for health and wellness reasons ranging from disease prevention to weight management and feel energetic. A survey of 300,00 consumers showed it is the best nutritional labeling system to encourage healthy food choices. The study found Nutri-Score is most popular among younger shoppers and consumers with lower socio-economic status.[i]
Notably, in May 2019, seven member organizations of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) launched a petition to make the Nutri-Score label mandatory in the EU as a common standard for communicating nutritional information.[ii]
Nutri-Score can also help retailers communicate with customers and take advantage of the healthy food trend. Adopting Nutri-Score helps retailers and suppliers to remain responsive to consumer needs, by being more transparent in their product communications, which can help them to earn consumer trust, sales and loyalty.
Business considerations for Nutri-Score
Retail companies see the benefits of Nutri-Score, including how makes it easier to inform consumers about food products’ nutritional data. Since Nutri-Score is not mandatory, there is no obligation for manufacturers and retailers to use it. However, proactively choosing to adopt Nutri-Score can differentiate retail companies. It can also give them a competitive edge by demonstrating their commitment to supporting consumer wellness and public health.
However, retail companies face challenges, as it takes time and effort to collect and verify product information to ensure accurate Nutri-Score results. In addition, products in certain categories like confectionary and salty snacks will likely receive lower Nutri-Score ratings, as these goods often contain above-average amounts of fat, sugar and salt.
Retail companies embrace Nutri-Score
Given the political and consumer forces influencing companies to share more product information, many European grocery retailers and suppliers have already embraced the Nutri-Score system.
For instance, French retailers include Auchan, Casino and Intermarché Have demonstrated leadership by using Nutri-Score for their private label products.[i] Leclerc has adopted Nutri-Score, which has rolled out across the retailer’s private label Marque Repère mobile app. It will appear on all Marque Repère food products by 2020.[ii] Franprix has a mobile app that allows consumers to scan a product barcode to obtain the item’s Nutri-Score.[iii]
Ahold Delhaize has introduced the Nutri-Score nutritional information labels across the own-brand product range of its Delhaize supermarkets in Belgium. Delhaize’s goal is to introduce the system to its entire range of own-brand products within the next two years.[iv] Eroski, a Spanish supermarket chain, has introduced its own-brand products featuring Nutri-Score labeling. This makes Eroski the first distribution company in Spain to incorporate this “advanced nutrition” labeling.[v] Hak, a Dutch vegetable supplier, and Iglo, a Dutch frozen foods supplier, will introduce Nutri-Score in the Netherlands, a market struggling with low vegetable consumption.[vi]
Several suppliers, including Fleury Michon, McCain and Danone Fresh, have added Nutri-Score to their product labels.[vii] The most convincing evidence that Nutri-Score is gaining momentum is the recent announcement by consumer goods giant Nestlé that it has adopted the Nutri-Score labeling system for food and beverage products in continental Europe.[viii]
Given the growing demand for international adoption of Nutri-Score to protect consumers’ health, grocery retailers and suppliers can see this trend as an opportunity to stand out from rivals by giving consumers the data they seek. To help global retail companies adapt to consumer demand, Trace One’s solution already allows customers to implement Nutri-Score for the products they enter into the system and publish it on product labels using an efficient, streamlined process. In addition, retail companies can proactively prepare a Nutri-Score strategy, including collecting relevant product data attributes.