Both child and adult health is under the spotlight as never before in the UK. One in three children leaves primary school either overweight or obese. To try and turn the tide, greater efforts to categorise food as healthy or unhealthy are underway and producers really need to be aware of government nutrition guidelines.
In a recent Online Development Kitchen session, we looked at government nutrition guidelines and how producers can make sure their products meet healthy eating standards. HFSS food – that which is high in fat, sugar and salt – is subject to a Department of Health (DoH) nutrient profiling model. The model is used to regulate advertising to children with products classified using a points system. Foods scoring 4 or more points, and drinks scoring 1 or more, are classified as HFSS and cannot be advertised as healthy for children.
More intervention and government nutrition guidelines
HFSS nutrient profiling model has been around for over a decade but there is growing movement in the area, especially in the context of COVID-19. The government is currently looking at extending the restrictions to adults too. It makes sense considering rising levels of obesity and weight-related conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Sensibly, the UK government is focused on prevention rather than cure. This is backed up by research from health organisations like Diabetes UK which states that three in five cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed.
The ASA’s food environment strategy prohibits advertising of HFSS products to children – on TV and online before 9pm. The possibility of introduction of HFSS labelling in restaurants and restricting promotion of HFSS products in general, would mean that all unhealthy foods will be restricted from April 2022. So it’s prudent to be aware of government nutrition guidelines and how your products (or prototypes) score within this model. From a promotional perspective, products that are healthier are likely to enjoy more prominence.
Consumer impact: Can we learn from the French experience?
Across the Channel, France has seen some positive results with their own version of HFSS. Nutri-Score ranks food from -15 for the ‘healthiest’ product to +50 for those that are ‘less healthy’. The product then receives a letter with a corresponding colour code.
The French system is a bit like combining HFSS with the UK’s current traffic light on-pack labelling in one method. However, the French system is more nuanced, taking into account the fact that context can be important – cheese contains high levels of fat but may be eaten in relatively small quantities, for example.
Public Health France (Santé Publique France) survey results show 94% of the French population is in favour of Nutri-Score’s presence on food and drink products and 89% say it should be mandatory. The Lancet also positively reviewed the system in 2018. This approach to labelling is having a positive impact in terms of changing purchasing habits, with 36% saying they had chosen another product with a better score than one with a lower score, for example. 35% of respondents said they made lasting changes in certain eating habits.
You can read more about Nutri-Score in this Public Health France article (in English).
Developing your product around HFSS
If you want to learn more about nutrient profiling models and their impact on your food or drink product development, check out the recording from the Froghop Online Development Kitchen. The webinar explains the points system in more detail and you’ll also learn about:
- The government’s strategy and actions on obesity
- Why it matters and what might happen
- How the nutrient profiling model works
- Product development in the context of HFSS
- Six key steps for developing/reformulating products to meet the standard