A single food labelling design, to rival the ‘traffic light system’, is being created by a loose ‘coalition’ of designers at five of the UK’s biggest food companies. The front of pack system will not use colours to inform shoppers about healthy or unhealthy nutritional characteristics.
Danone, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestlé and PepsiCo are using in-house designers and rostered consultancies to create a set of consistent-looking symbols and icons for use on fmcg products, such as Walkers crisps, KitKat and Dairylea, a spokeswoman for the consortium says. Unilever has also joined the group, with more set to follow.
The move has brought criticism from retailers piloting versions of the existing traffic light scheme, as well as from groups campaigning for a standardised labelling system.
The Food Standards Agency is currently finalising its own proposals for food labelling, using the ‘multiple traffic light’ scheme, based on colour-coded warning labels. Consumer testing by the FSA concluded that this system performed best for the majority of consumers. While food labelling is still voluntary, this raises concerns about the potential to adopt a nationwide industry standard.
The labels being worked up by the group of manufacturers list nutritional content as a proportion of guideline daily amount. This displays the amount of calories, sugar, fat, saturates and salt found in each item. The designs are currently being finalised, but it is likely that the final look will reflect existing GDA-based labelling by Kellogg’s and Nestlé.
Tesco ditched its traffic light food labelling, designed by Rocket Design, in favour of a GDA-based scheme, amid claims that traffic lights were too simplistic and confusing for the consumer (DW 5 May 2005). Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s has introduced a combined traffic light and GDA system, dubbed Wheel of Health, designed in consultation with Brewers.
‘Being prepared to colour-code products is doing the real job. It means making hard calls about labelling and potentially running the risk that customers decide not to buy a particular product if it comes out red,’ states Gwyn Burr, customer director at Sainsbury’s.
A spokeswoman for the fmcg coalition says designers may be drafted to work on the scheme’s implementation, including marketing or promotional projects. The initiative will launch this spring.
Key issues raised in customer research for food labelling*
• Current labelling is complex and difficult to use
• It would benefit from a standardised format, with a consistent size and position on front of packs
• The objective is to allow customers to make ‘quick decisions easily ‘
• Need for backing by an independent, credible body
* Source: Food Standards Agency, November 2005