IGD offers co-operation after Sainsbury boss urges universal food labelling

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Justin King is a fan, but will universal front-of-pack nutritional labelling get the green light from government? (Sainsbury's new tabular labels pictured)
Justin King is a fan, but will universal front-of-pack nutritional labelling get the green light from government? (Sainsbury's new tabular labels pictured)
The grocery think tank IGD has pledged to work with government and industry to reach agreement on labelling, after Sainsbury boss Justin King urged the food industry to adopt universal front-of-pack nutritional labelling, combining multiple traffic lights (MTLs) and guideline daily amounts (GDAs).

King, speaking at the industry’s Annual IGD Convention yesterday (October 9), said the retailer was committed to introducing a new tabular format of colour-coded nutritional labelling to replace its Wheel of Health traffic light labelling.

“We’re calling on other manufacturers and retailers to do the same, so we can ensure a consistent, combined approach,”​ said King. The industry should put aside its differences and work together and align behind a common format, he urged.

‘Once in a generation opportunity’

King said the industry had a “once in a generation opportunity to give customers a unified approach that makes it easier for them to make healthier eating choices”.

Impending EU regulatory packaging changes mean all food retailers and manufacturers will need to change a number of aspects of their labelling, he said. “The Department of Health is currently working on exactly what this means for the UK food industry, but we know it will lead to a period of significant packaging change.”

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive, IGD, said: “IGD has a particular interest in this, as we worked with the industry and consumers to develop GDAs as voluntary back-of-pack nutrition labelling guidelines back in the late nineties.

“We stand ready to work with the industry, government and others with an interest in front-of-pack labelling to reach a consensus. It’s important that everyone is involved in this as it affects retailers, manufacturers and foodservice operators alike.”

King also said he wanted to see an end to the use of other colours that confuse consumers. “There can be no justification in customer terms for continued use of any colours except multiple traffic lights,”​ he said.

No justification

The new Provision of Food Information to Consumers Regulation requires all food manufacturers and retailers already providing nutrition information to change their labelling from 2014. Others should begin nutrition labelling for the first time from 2016.

In May, the governments across the UK launched a consultation designed to reach a consistent approach to front-of-pack nutrition information. The consultation also looked at technical aspects, including the nutrition criteria on which front of pack labelling is based.

Independent research by Ipsos Mori from May 2011 shows that 80% of customers see MTLs as useful, and 79% are influenced by them when deciding what to buy, according to a statement from Sainsbury.

Last week, our sister title Food Manufacture​ reported it was “inevitable”​ that the DoH would recommend a single hybrid front-of-pack labelling system that combines GDAs and traffic light labelling. To read why this is likely to serve “a massive blow”​ to the industry, click here​.

Meanwhile, speaking before King’s announcement, a Food and Drink Federation spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk:“The consultation on front-of-pack has only recently drawn to a close and we look forward to further discussions once the Department of Health has had time to digest all of the responses received.”

But what do you think? Is Britain ready for a universal front-of-pack labelling scheme? Share your views by using the easy polling survey below. 


Is the UK food industry ready for a universal front-of-pack nutritional labelling plan?

  • Yes - its high time.

  • No - that would be a step too far.

  • Don't know.


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