EUROPE – A new study conducted in Europe has revealed that having a Nutri-score on a product affected the shopper purchase intentions.

Results of the study showed that shoppers expressed higher purchase intentions for healthy products carrying Nutri-Score, rather than those without it.

However, the researchers noted, the same could not be said of unhealthy products: average purchase intentions for these foods were identical, whether the label was present or not.

This suggests that Nutri-Score ‘has the potential to boost sales of healthy products’, said the researchers, while at the same time not affecting sales of unhealthy products.

What is Nutri-Score?​

Nutri-score is labelling scheme was first developed in France in 2017. Since that time, Nutri-Score has been officially recommended in several European countries, including France, Belgium, and Spain, to address rising obesity rates.

 The scheme has also been trialed by food brands such as PepsiCo, the Kellogg Company, and Nestlé.

The scheme ranks food from -15 for the ‘healthiest’ product to +50 for those that are ‘less healthy’.

On the bases on this score, the product receives a letter with a corresponding colour code: from dark green (A) to dark red (F).

Impact of the Nutri-score on consumer purchase behaviour

Data from the recently concluded study revealed that presence of Nutri-Score did help the respondents assess the healthiness of products more easily.

According to the researchers, this means that the first objective of Nutri-Score – to make respondents more aware of product healthiness – has been achieved.

As discussed above, presence of the Nutri-score on the front packaging of a food product also helped buyers to make informed decisions when purchasing a product.

This was particularly beneficial to health-conscious individuals, whose numbers is beginning to rise globally in tandem with current trends that promote healthier lifestyles.

Strong opposition from food industry players

The Nutri-score is not widely accepted in the food industry. Indeed, the Belgian food industry has argued that Nutri-Score is too ‘stigmatising’ for some unhealthy export products, such as chocolate, the researchers continued.

 In Italy, too, the label has been criticised for posing a risk to Italian-made products and for being exclusionary of foods such as extra virgin olive oil and Italian specialties Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Grana Padano.

What next?

According to the researchers, the limited, voluntary implementation of Nutri-Score in Europe is preventing consumers from ‘making accurate comparisons’ across food products.

With findings indicating that shoppers do make healthier food choices when the label is present, they concluded that ‘its mandatory implementation for all food products in Europe seems appropriate’.

They suggested that enforced implementation could have beneficial consequences for retailers, manufacturers, consumers, nutritionists, and public policymakers.

“We hope these findings contribute to greater conviction among all stakeholders to introduce the Nutri-Score as the only European FOP nutrition label and an effective option for addressing the growing obesity epidemic.”

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