Healthy-Food labelling – FGC media response

26 August 2014

Consumer magazine asked for the food industry’s perspective on the front-of-pack health star labelling system to go with an article on snack bars. Does the Food and Grocery Council have a position statement on this issue? Do members intend to take up this voluntary system? What timeframes are in place for companies that will proceed? Will companies will display the health star rating on their whole product range or a small selection of products?

Katherine Rich responded:

FGC is supportive of the health star rating system and is encouraging members to consider its implementation. We initially had some reservations when the beta version was trialed because the algorithm wasn’t robust and there were some glaring anomalies.  Through further work by officials and industry these have been largely resolved.

We think it’s a good scheme because, at a glance, people can see what the rating of the whole food is, not just its component nutrients. For example, positive ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes get extra points. The scheme has been based on the Australian dietary guidelines.

Another good thing is that it can be used with other current schemes in place in the New Zealand market, for example, the Heart Tick and the DIG. FGC was particularly keen that any new scheme did not damage or diminish the Heart Tick as this is already well-known, trusted and used by many Kiwis.

FGC participated in the New Zealand Front of Pack Labelling Advisory Group to give feedback on this scheme over the past few years, alongside Consumer NZ, the Heart Foundation and companies.  

FGC has volunteered to assist with some of the educational workshops for industry being planned by the Ministry of Primary Industries and we have been distributing information on the new scheme to members as well as providing feedback on the clarity of the style guide.

We currently are aware of 15 companies (large numbers of SKUs) that are already working to implement the new labelling system but there are probably more as some companies are keeping their plans confidential until they launch.

We expect to see the first wave of implementation this year, but most of the activity will be next year as most companies plan pack changes 6 months to 2 years ahead, depending on their programmes.