UNLOCKING NUTRITION LABELLING FOR EVERYONE Hannah Pearse (RNutr) Head of Nutrition and Scientific Affairs, IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) Hannah has over 10 years of experience working in nutrition and technical roles in both retail and manufacturing. She currently heads up IGD's nutrition and science team, looking at how food and drink companies can work together to drive healthier eating in the UK.
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Nearly half (46%) of shoppers feel that nutritional labels are too difficult to read; with that in mind, this article explores the barriers that consumers are facing when trying to understand front-of-pack nutrition labels and offers solutions from IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution). Companies are legally required to provide huge amounts of information on their food and drink products, including the ingredients, the use by date and nutrition information. In addition, more than 80% of products on the market voluntarily display frontof-pack nutrition information so that shoppers can see at a glance how much energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt are in a serving of food. However, nearly half of shoppers (46%) feel that nutrition labels are too difficult to read and, despite this information being widespread, it passes many of us by while we are out shopping making our daily food and drink choices. Research shows that only about a quarter (27%)1 of us use nutrition information, yet 46% agree they should read nutrition information on food labels more often. To help consumers make better use of front-of-pack nutrition information, IGD had to understand what was stopping people from using the information. The journey started in 2015 when the IGD research2 began, which included desk-based reviews of existing reports and papers. The research then moved to in-store observations and eye tracking while people shopped, focus groups, message testing and quantitative surveys. Seeing shoppers in a reallife environment was invaluable, demonstrating all the competing factors when food shopping and how confusing it can be to navigate healthier choices.
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As one shopper said, “It’s all grams and percentages. I came in here to do my shopping not a maths degree.” THE COMMON AREAS OF CONFUSION
Our research identified some common areas of confusion, including the following: Calories: It is not surprising that calories are confusing for consumers since companies must display information in kilocalories, kilojoules and the energy per 100g. Consumers also found the term ‘energy’ confusing, often associating energy as a good thing and calories as bad. One shopper said, “Children need their energy for sport. Don’t see why calories is listed under energy.” Reference Intakes (RI): The term ‘Reference Intakes’ was not as intuitive for consumers as the previous term - guideline daily amounts. One shopper commented, “I don’t know what it means. What is RI? I wouldn't have noticed it.” However, once Reference Intakes was explained, that the percentage represents how many calories, how much fat, saturates, sugars and salt a portion of food or drink contains, as a share of their daily allowance, shoppers did consider it a useful tool. Portion size: Despite the portion information being integral to the numbers on the front of pack, many ignored the stated portion, considered it irrelevant, unrealistic, or simply went on to consume a different amount.
Colour coding: Shoppers generally like and understand the traffic light concept. Some were confused about the criteria behind the colours and some struggled with how to negotiate a mixture of reds and greens. Products that don’t feature colour coding were not viewed positively, with consumers assuming there is something to hide. One shopper said, “They don’t put them on because they are worried there will be reds and it would stop you buying it.” Inconsistency: Even when products are displaying front-of-pack nutrition information, the inconsistent way it is displayed leads to confusion and requires additional effort to compare products at a glance. This included where the information is displayed on pack, the font size and the amount that is coloured. WHAT ARE IGD’S SOLUTIONS?
To help shoppers better understand the aspects of the front-of-pack labelling they find most confusing, IGD has worked with behaviour change specialists, marketeers and nutritionists, to develop simple messages to explain the main areas of confusion. These messages have been been rigorously tested to make sure that most people can understand them. ‘Know your . . .’ messages The overarching theme of the message ‘Know your…’ was developed because consumers want inclusive language that encourages them to act and learn more. We know from our research that 45% of people would like to learn more about nutrition information on labels to help make healthier choices. The messages cover five areas and consist of ‘core’ and ‘support’ messages depending on where the messages are displayed, for example at the point of sale in a shop, along the aisles in a store, or online. The five messages are: • Know your label - an introduction or summary of the front-of-pack label. • Know your colours - since most consumers like colour coding, this is a good starting point before explaining any numbers. • Know your portions - raising awareness, making consumers stop and think about the quantities they eat.
• Know your daily allowance - this is the most complex part of the label; RI is not a well understood term, whereas ‘daily allowance’ resonates better and encourages engagement. • Know your calories - awareness of calories is high, but often seen as the preserve of dieters, so focus is on driving personal relevance. All the messages and imagery have been developed in a simple-to-use guide and toolkit tailored for both industry and non-industry organisations available at www.igd.com/healthyeating. Improving consistency Our research found that 72% of shoppers agreed that it would be easier to understand food labels if they were consistently displayed across all products. To tackle this issue, IGD worked with nutritionists, regulatory and packaging experts, and consulted with a semiotic specialist - an expert in signs, symbols and meaningful communication - to develop best-practice guidance detailing how front-ofpack information should be displayed. IGD have built on existing guidance and regulations and have full support from the Department of Health. HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?
To cut through this confusion, we need people to see these messages wherever they go from online shopping, to posters in stores, health websites, magazines - the possibilities are endless. IGD needs many companies and organisations to download our guide and share the messages with their audiences. We already have great commitment from many major retailers and manufactures including Aldi, Asda, Brakes, Compass, Kingsmill, Morrisons, Musgrave, Nestlé UK, Premier Foods, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose - but we need more to truly have an impact. In addition, for companies already displaying, or wanting to display front-ofpack nutrition labels, we encourage them to download our best practice guide and adopt our recommendations. The guides can be accessed here: www.igd. com/healthyeating. www.NHDmag.com June 2018 - Issue 135