Tesco wants traffic light labels to include exercise

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Tesco's strategic adviser Tim Smith. Picture courtesy of Tesco.plc
Tesco's strategic adviser Tim Smith. Picture courtesy of Tesco.plc
Food and drink traffic light nutrition labels should be reviewed to make them more understandable by consumers in the battle against obesity, according to Tesco’s strategic adviser Tim Smith.

Providing clear and simple information for customers was part of making healthier choices easier for consumers, said Smith, speaking at the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum seminar on sugar reduction policy, held in London last Thursday (April 27).

“We have got quite used to the idea of traffic light labels. But maybe it is time that they were altered or changed to give them a better relevance,”​ said Smith.

Labels linked to exercise

“I am quite taken with the idea of linking that to exercise. But there is quite a lot that can be done in today’s world with nutrient calculators and so on that will help people to know in an instant what ​[impact] it is that their basket choices make … which could be a nudge towards a healthier option.”

Smith added: “We do know that the biggest impact of​ [traffic light nutrition] labelling has been​ [Tesco’s] reformulation effort.The second impact has been consumer information for those that want it … If I look at our labels now, is that as simple and straightforward as our customers would want it to be? Or could it be simpler, more direct and more focused?”

Smith also reported that Tesco had plans to use nutrient profiles of shopper baskets from sales data that it collected to help “nudge”​ its shoppers towards healthier purchases – possibly aided by targeted promotions.

“We can determine at an individual level what customers’ baskets comprise using the Ofcom​ [nutrient profiling measure] and what that does is give us at population level a score about the baskets in different types of shop and different locations,”​ he said. “But it also starts to give us an indication of how we might help shape customers’ thinking.

Nutrient profiling

“I’m not going to be coy about it, but we have a plan to use that data in that kind of directional way and the difficulty, of course, is it’s a basket ​– that is not the individual … so the devil is in the detail.”

Smith announced that Britain’s largest retailer had further plans to reformulate its own-label food and drink and make healthier shopping choices easier for its shoppers but faced the barriers of cost, accessibility and taste.

“If it fails to meet those criteria, we won’t sell it because customers will not buy it again​,” said Smith. “So we think we are addressing a good deal of those and it’s one of those pivotal moments in our time when what you’ve seen so far is just the start.

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