Sainsbury’s throws down gauntlet on nutritional labelling at IGD Convention

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King: relationship with government does not seem to have trust at its core

King: relationship with government does not seem to have trust at its core

Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, called on the food industry to move to universal front of pack nutritional labelling combining multiple traffic lights (MTLs) and Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) at the 2012 IGD Convention.

And he challenged those delegates who currently use other colours on their labels – but never red – to use black and white labelling when new European food labelling regulations come into force.

King said continued use of any colours except multiple traffic lights was, “disingenuous at best, confusing and undermined trust in the industry”.

New tabular format labelling

New tabular format labelling

He revealed Sainsbury’s was moving from a wheel to a tabulated format, showcasing GDAs and traffic lights on front of pack, and it would be a two to three year process to put in place.

“Sainsbury’s has always championed simple, clear nutritional labelling,” he said.

“Seven years ago, we were the first to use traffic lights ,which are based on Guideline Daily Amounts on front of pack. Years of research show customers prefer a combination of red, amber, green traffic light colour-coding, combined with GDAs.

“Now we are calling for the industry to put aside their differences and work together and align behind a common format.

“Impending EU regulatory packaging changes mean all food retailers and manufacturers will need to change a number of aspects of their labelling anyway. The Department of Health is currently working on exactly what this means for the UK food industry, but we know it will lead to a period of significant packaging change. It’s a once in a generation opportunity to give customers a unified approach that makes it easier for them to make healthier eating choices.”

King also explored the grocery industry’s relationship with government and the challenges it needs to address.

“Our relationship with government does not seem to have trust at its core,” he said.

King cited the bag tax, minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland and the Grocery Ombudsman as moves that politicians had no trust at all that the industry would do the right thing for its customers.

“We should be assertive in our relationship with politicians,” he said.

King referenced chancellor George Osborne’s scheme for companies to offer tax free shares in exchange for giving up employee rights.

Businesses that wish to trade employment rights for money should not be on our agenda, he said.

King said the focus should be on making employment easier, such as reducing an employer’s national insurance contributions.

“Employment is a powerful force for good in our society,” he said; and urged delegates, “to be forceful with politicians when we believe they are not helping us build trust”.