Despite the UK leading the world in transparent food and drink labelling and reducing levels of salt, saturated and trans fatty acids through reformulation – and more recent work to reduce levels of sugar – to improve the nutritional content of products, it “absolutely has not been enough” in reversing the growth in obesity, Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive said.
The IGD is embarking on three new activities to achieve this goal. First, it intends to invest in ways to help inspire more people to use the nutritional information on food and drink packs more frequently.
“We have great insight form a variety of sources and we are about to kick off within the next fortnight a major research study in stores across the country to answer the questions that still remain most critical about what could be done to make using information easier and less confusing … without redesigning the labels once again,” said Denney- Finch, IGD chief executive.
She was speaking at the British Nutrition Foundation’s Annual day on November 17 at the Royal College of Physicians in London, in advance of the government’s childhood obesity strategy, which is now expected to be published in the New Year.
Second, the IGD is going to conduct a “giant experiment” across many food companies in conjunction with an as yet unnamed university to establish the most effective ways to promote healthy eating in the workplace. “This will involve testing some of the latest nudge-style insights in consumer psychology,” she added.
Lastly, the IGD plans to help more small companies – including foodservice outlets – get started on the road to product reformulation through sharing best practice.
‘Latest shopper research’
“We have not yet reversed the trend in obesity, so we now await a new obesity strategy and we will have to work even harder and even smarter,” said Denney-Finch. “Some statistics from IGD’s latest shopper research illustrate the size of the task ahead of use.”
She reported that 56% of people felt that because advice on nutrition often changes, they were not confident that it was correct. “Some of this is because, like all sciences, the thinking on nutrition does change. But a lot also stems from the blizzard of often conflicting messages that people receive through the media that does cause doubt.”
A quarter of people are less than fully confident in their ability to identify healthy food, she added. Also, 56% said they preferred not to think about health whenever they ate out, while two-thirds held the view that healthy eating was more expensive “and that’s a real barrier to change”. While six in 10 people didn’t think their diets were as healthy as they could be, they felt they were healthy enough.
“I predict that health will play a bigger and bigger role in the way retailers lay out their stores and display their products and I think you will see some of that very shortly,” said Denney-Finch.
Shopper views on nutritional labelling
56% – Not confident advice on nutrition they received was correct
25% – Not confident in their ability to identify ‘healthy’ food
56% – Prefer not to think about health when eating out
66% – Believed healthy eating was more expensive
60% – Felt their diets were healthy enough, although could be better
* IGD shopper research