Smart Food Labels

Smart Food Labelling

European regulation on food information for consumers came into force in 2011 and made nutrition labelling compulsory for pre-packed foods from 2016. This was largely to target obesity and other health concerns by highlighting fat, sugars, salts and calories.

However, major food companies which were involved in consultation on a new, traffic light-based scheme pulled out in 2018 after failing to achieve a consensus on new regulations.

The scheme by Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever which sought to replace the monochrome labelling system in place has failed because companies could not gain consensus around the new portion based, colour based scheme.


It has long been assumed that red stood for high levels of ‘food baddies’ like saturated fat, with green for ‘go ahead’ and yellow in the middle. It is a colour combination which has worked in traffic lights for many years.


In fact, it may come as a surprise to many a shopper to hear that ‘Colour coding of food labels is very controversial in continental Europe’ according to a spokesman from Nestlé who has called for the European Commission to come up with a ‘common approach’ in the form of a law.


While this could be considered a set back, in fact there is no reason for companies, particularly large suppliers of food, not to develop their own information on products and in fact use the collapse of this latest scheme to develop an even more in depth process which gives consumers the information they want to find out.


A survey conducted last year found that of more than 800 people, 84% checked where their food as come from either ‘all’, ‘most’ or ‘some’ of the time. It also found that two thirds are either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ concerned about where their food has come from while 68% said that the origin of food is either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important in influencing purchasing decisions.


The origin of particular kinds of food, such as whiskey or cheese, is also important with consumers wanting to buy the ‘genuine article’. 48% of people said they would feel ‘misled’ if they purchased a food product advertised from a certain region only to discover later it was not from that region. And over one quarter said they would feel ‘cheated’ with one fifth ‘concerned’.


This demand for information doesn’t have to be seen as a problem for food producers: it can be seen as an opportunity for companies, producers, farmers - whoever - to stand out from the crowd in a well populated marketplace and to better engage with their suppliers and their end consumers.


This is where Trust Passport comes in.