review

Food and drink nutrition labelling has not traditionally been seen as one of the hot issues for our trade. But as you will no doubt be aware, that has all changed in the past year or so, as companies have aligned themselves around front-of-pack labelling schemes based either on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) or some form of so-called traffic lights.

What strikes me is how quickly the GDA scheme has gained critical mass in the market, with 50 companies, including food manufacturers, supermarkets and convenience retail chains, now putting these labels on around 20,000 product lines. This now makes it the most well-known and widely available front-of-pack labelling scheme in the UK.

Traffic lights have gained a lesser measure of support, mainly from retailers, while a handful of others have plumped for a combination of both schemes.

So why are more companies backing the use of GDA labelling? After all, putting this sort of information on the front of food and drink products would have been unthinkable for the industry just a few years ago. Well, supporters of GDAs say that it is a powerful tool that will guide consumers towards a healthier diet by showing them – clearly and honestly – what’s inside the products they are buying. Moreover, the concept of GDAs has been around for years and is based on sound science.

Research conducted for the manufacturers shows that the new labelling is a big hit with consumers. After less than one year in widespread use, 80% of consumers are now aware of the GDA scheme and 82% would like to see this information on the front of even more packs.

A key issue in all of this is whether the industry is at odds with the Food Standards Agency, which has proposed the traffic light scheme. It seems to me that there is a large degree of agreement between the camps in this debate as industry, the regulator and the government look for the best way of providing consumers with clearer food labelling.

So where does that leave wholesalers? Changing the packaging of their own label products is not a decision to be taken lightly and putting this sort of labelling on packs is not a mandatory requirement. However, some FWD members have already made the decision to go ahead and as the GDA scheme continues to prove popular with manufacturers, we will see even more of the branded products in our depots carrying these labels. This debate will continue at Catersummit on October 2 at The Oxford Belfry when Dr Jane Holdsworth of the Food and Drink Federation takes the platform (see pages 31-33).

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