Nutri-Score – a promising initiative in nutritional quality labelling
European consumers are increasingly watching what they eat - counting calories, reducing sodium and sugar intakes, for example. They also want to see health and nutrition facts on product packaging. The processed fruit and vegetable industry in Europe is following this trend by launching innovative products and informing consumers about food characteristics on labels. One of the most promising developments in this area is the Nutri-Score label.
Nutri-Score is a labelling scheme that informs consumers about the nutritional value of a product using letters and colours. It was first launched in 2017 in France as a voluntary labelling scheme recommended by and developed by France’s national public health agency. Soon after it launched, consumer organisations across Europe endorsed the Nutri-Score label. Under the scheme, products are awarded a score from A to E according to their nutritional quality. A specific product will have its Nutri-Score letter highlighted on the Nutri-Score logo on the product’s package, as follows:
Based on large-scale scientific research, an algorithm was created to calculate the nutritional quality of food products and classify them under one of the five scores. The algorithm gives negative or positive points for each element in the nutrition table (per 100 g or ml), which are then converted to the Nutri-Score results. High contents of energy, saturated fat, sugars and sodium receive negative points, while higher proportion of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fibres and proteins receive positive points.
Spread of Nutri-Score across Europe
After launching in France, Nutri-Score was adopted in Belgium and Spain in 2018, then Germany in 2019. Nutri-Score is optional in these countries, but a growing number of food manufacturers are displaying it on their products. Open Food Facts, the free food products database, currently identifies 177 brands (2,926 products) carrying the Nutri-Score label in France, 28 brands (736 products) in Belgium and 16 brands (128 products) in Spain.
According to research conducted in May 2018, 15% of the products in the French market were labelled with Nutri-Score. Large international brands and retail chains are also adopting the label. In June 2019, Nestlé announced its support for Nutri-Score as the chosen labelling system for food products in Europe. One month earlier, Albert Heijn, the leading retail chain in the Netherlands, announced adoption of Nutri-Score following a successful introduction at its Belgian brand Delhaize, the first retailer to adopt this food label in Belgium. Aldi Suisse also announced plans to introduce the Nutri-Score labelling system in 2020.
A recent study carried out by consumer and medical associations and published by Forsa, shows that the Nutri-Score label has been well received by German consumers. Researchers compared the five-stage Nutri-Score label with the Waben-Sterne, the honeycomb label from Germany’s Max Rubner Institute (MRI), which was developed on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). A total of 69% of respondents preferred Nutri-Score, while only 25% were in favour of the Waben-Sterne label.
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) supports Nutri-Score as the current best-performing scheme for comparing nutritional quality of foods and supporting healthier purchasing choices, in opposition to alternative labels proposed by large multinational agri-business companies. BEUC and other consumer groups are actually advocating for Nutri-Score to become the mandatory front-of-package nutritional labelling scheme across Europe.
Calculating your product’s Nutri-Score
Developing country suppliers can calculate the Nutri-Score of the products they export to European markets by using this online calculator. Different calculation methods have been developed for fats (oil and butter), cheese, drinks and all other food products. Nutri-Score is not available for alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea or baby food up to the age of three. The calculation process has been facilitated by barcode scanning and the use of a smartphone application called SmartWithFood.
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This news article was written for CBI by Autentika Global.