Are you ready for the Nutriscore?

A few days ago, the Spanish Ministry of Health released some news that has received a huge amount of attention by the food industry as well as by consumers themselves: the introduction of the Nutriscore traffic light on the front-of-pack labelling, using colours and letters, which will allow the consumer to identify the nutritional value of the food. The red colour (letter E) will be the least healthy foods, while the dark green colour (letter A) will be the healthiest.

Nutriscore traffic light

After some early controversies, like the controversy over olive oil, which would receive a D rating according to the parameters on which Nutriscore is based and therefore be an unhealthy product, the Spanish Ministry of Health has confirmed that products with a single ingredient (eggs, rice, oil, etc.) will not utilise the traffic light system.

The way in which this nutritional traffic light is implemented, as argued by the Spanish Ministry of Health itself, will make it possible to fight obesity and bad eating habits, using the French system as a model, which already voluntarily implemented this Nutriscore system for labelling food and drinks back in 2017. Different studies have come to the following conclusions:

  • Clarification: this Nutriscore, compared to other traffic lights that have been applied in the past or are currently being proposed, is the one that’s best valued by consumers in terms of the clarity and understanding of nutritional information.
  • Healthy shopping: when comparing shopping carts in France with the new Nutriscore traffic light vs the previous system, it was found that shopping carts are healthier on average with Nutriscore, without this leading to a higher overall cost.

After the implementation in France, Belgium and Portugal will be soon to follow, however it will also be on a voluntary basis. And this is where one of the main differences lies: the Spanish Minister of Health has said that it will not be voluntary in Spain, it will be mandatory and the deadline doesn’t give a lot of wiggle room: most likely 1 year, via a Royal Decree.

It is true that the obligatory nature of a traffic light like the one being proposed now had already been challenged by countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Belgium, however it required a consensus among the EU countries: we do not know how this will affect the Spanish Ministry of Health’s measure, since a previous resolution made by the European Parliament in 2011 rejected the obligatory nature of coloured front-of-pack labelling, and established the voluntary nature of these measures. In addition, it is considered that there has been some haste in applying the measure, since the European Commission had planned a report on this matter at the beginning of the year. Interestingly, the United Kingdom views Brexit as an opportunity to make the Nutriscore obligatory without the need for EU consensus: we will have to see how the measure evolves in this country.

Obligatory or voluntary, what is clear is that it represents an opportunity for the food industry to effectively guide consumers, buyers and influencers of food and beverages.

A measure like this may cause the food industry to:

  • Reformulate some recipes and improve the quality of their ingredients.
  • Increase formulation costs (ingredients) that may have a partial or full impact on the retail price.
  • Generate costs in companies:
    • Related to the labels that have to be redesigned to accommodate the traffic light, possibly needing to use more ink on the labels
    • Related to the labels that will have to be destroyed due to implementation deadlines vs. rotation

Brands are now faced with a dilemma, especially the historically “less healthy” product categories, in which they should take a step forward and be the first to adopt this Nutriscore system. It seems that it is only a matter of time, and this type of early action would give these brands the values of honesty and transparency in the eyes of consumers. Those who want to take the plunge can count on us to help them implement the Nutriscore on their packaging in the most efficient way in terms of the graphic result, processes, times and costs.

In addition, our Brand Management Tool can allow us to quickly manage large SKU projects, optimising time and costs.

About the author: Xavier Puche | Head of Strategy Iberia
• Ex Client Director of Summa, Coleman, CBA & Landor
• Ex Strategy Director of Columna
• Ex Marketing Manager Maxxium
November 26th, 2018 | Branding
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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