The changes are necessary to comply with the new EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC), which are expected to come into effect in December 2014.
The FIC brings EU rules on general and nutrition labelling together into a single regulation to simplify and consolidate existing labelling legislation and applies in all Member States.
Once adopted into UK legislation, the FIC will be known as the Food Information Regulation (FIR), according to Stephen Pugh, head of food labelling at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Morrisons wants simultaneously to include the new Department of Health (DH) backed hybrid front-of-pack (FoP) nutrition labelling scheme, combining coloured traffic lights with reference intake data, Morrisons’ company nutritionist Sally Moore said.
Moore said the changes involved a massive amount of work and the fourth largest grocery multiple had decided to make the FIC and FoP changes together to reduce time and cost.
‘Two huge packaging initiatives’
“These results on pack will be subtle, but we will have to change every single one of our packs,” said Moore at a seminar on food policy labelling in London yesterday (July 2), organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum. “We have committed to these two huge packaging initiatives.
“This is also very much a burden on our suppliers. We have to talk to them about how the costs can be absorbed.”
To ensure changes are effectively managed, Morrisons would need to review its IT systems, Moore said.
The supermarket’s design teams would also be heavily involved in redesigning packs to accommodate the new information required and larger minimum font sizes specified under the regulations, she added.
The final plank of the changes would involve communicating the changes and what they would mean to Morrisons’ customers – both in-store and via its website – she said.
Making hybrid FoP nutrition labels clear to a “lay person” would be no simple task, said Moore. She challenged delegates to say how they would communicate what was effectively quite complex information in a simple yet understandable way “on a postcard”.
Reduce red labels
She said Morrisons would also take advantage of the changes to reformulate further its own-label products to reduce the number of red labels on food.
“Where ranges are red we will be working behind the scenes to change them to orange and green,” she said. “It’s a really powerful behind the scenes tool.”
However, how the supermarket would deal with labelling changes for the unpackaged food it sells under the FIR was still being worked out, she said. “This is a big work stream for us in how we present our information.”