Our on-pack labels and online information help people understand what’s in our products.
Consumers are more and more interested in what is in their food products. And governments and consumer organisations around the globe see providing transparent and fact-based nutrition information as a key way to support people to choose healthier products.
We agree. That’s why labelling – providing the nutrition content of our products and information on how to improve diets in an understandable way – is an essential part of our approach.
Providing nutrition information
Our approach to nutrition labelling is consistent across the world, covering all our brands and markets, and our governance model helps us monitor this. In 2018, 96% of our products (covering 97% of sales volume) provided nutritional information in line with our nutrition labelling commitment.
Our nutrition labelling commitment is the following:
- 'Big 8’ nutrients on back-of-pack (energy, protein, carbohydrate, sugars, fat, saturates, fibre and sodium).
- Front-of-pack icon showing energy content as either a % contribution to the daily recommendation or as an absolute quantity.
- Per portion (preferred option) or per 100g/ml.
- For small or unusually shaped packs, ‘Big 4’ on back-of-pack (energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat) and energy per portion front-of-pack, provided this is legally allowed. For very small packs, information can often be obtained through websites and carelines.
- For energy, sugars, fat, saturated fat and salt, the % contribution to the daily dietary recommendation (PDF | 421KB) is given as an icon or text on back-of-pack.
Besides our nutrition labelling commitment, we are keen on allergy labelling and this is not only of importance in our retail business, but also in our foodservice business. To make sure we provide information accurately and in an easy-to-understand way, we also invest in training on labelling. We have designed an online course to help colleagues in marketing, R&D, packaging, and external and regulatory affairs understand the information we are required to provide to consumers. This is important because labelling has a growing role in how people view and trust food companies.
Allergen labelling saves lives
For the increasing number of people who have food allergies or intolerances, understanding allergen labelling on packaged products can literally save lives. However, avoiding allergens can be particularly challenging when eating out. So it’s especially important that chefs and foodservice operators understand allergens and allergy labelling, so they can not only advise their customers on what to avoid, but prepare dishes and meals according to allergen restrictions.
Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) works with cooks across the world to help them understand allergens allergen labelling better. We partner with food operators, chefs and kitchen staff to provide training and materials that help them inform their guests about key allergens in the food they serve.
UFS has rolled out allergen training in the US and Europe. In the UK, UFS partnered with Allergy UK to launch a complete ‘how to’ allergen guide. ‘Manage Allergens with Confidence’ supports operators on how to manage allergens in their kitchens safely, proposing recipes and products with ‘no allergens to declare’ ingredients, making their allergen-free dishes #GoodToGo. The guide also supports operators towards gaining Allergy UK’s Allergy Aware Scheme accreditation. In only one week after launching, the guide had generated over 1,600 page views.
Going forward, we will expand our training. For example, in the coming year, we will start to host webinars in Canada on understanding allergens and allergen labelling.
“Allergens has been a hot topic in the foodservice industry for some time now, and it will continue to be, as policies change and customers demand more from establishments. However, food allergies can be serious and need to be treated in a different way than dietary preferences and customisation requests,” says Joy Dubost, our Regional Head of Nutrition & Health Advocacy and Communication, North America.
Front-of-pack labels help people make healthier choices
Front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labels are designed to provide simplified nutrition information to consumers at a glance. They are considered an effective way to help people make healthier food choices. And they encourage food companies to improve the nutritional quality of their products, helping improve people’s diets. A study in 2015, supported by Unilever, showed that companies that adopt FOP labelling introduce more innovative and nutritionally better products than companies that don’t use FOP labelling. And early adopters introduce more new products compared with late adopters.
However, there are numerous types of FOP labels developed and implemented in different countries. Some convey a positive, encouraging message (such as Choices), some contain warning signs (like the scheme in Chile), and some show colour coded % Guideline Daily Amounts (for example, the UK’s Traffic Lights).
We have defined key characteristics for interpretive FOP labels, based on our longstanding knowledge and expertise of nutrient profiles, external scientific literature and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.
Most importantly, we believe a good interpretive FOP label does not exclude any product category, is in line with dietary guidelines and has a good within-product group differentiation. Moreover, we believe a good between-group differentiation is important and that the label focuses on nutrients of concern with limited compensation for positive nutrients. Finally, we think the label should encourage and result in behaviour change, by both helping consumers make healthier food choices and stimulating food producers to reformulate.
Our overarching FOP nutrition labelling strategy is to work towards the WHO’s ambition – to have one simple, consistent, global FOP label. This is something that will take time to achieve. We’re strongly in favour of a FOP labelling scheme where the underlying nutrient profile is based on portions. Consumers must be able to make a healthier choice within a product category, as that is where they make their choice, and reformulation must be encouraged and rewarded with a better score. A portion-based approach allows for both, whereas a ‘per 100g approach’ often does not.
Positive, encouraging labels have product specific benchmarks with an intrinsic portion element, so this is our preferred option. We realise governments may favour traffic lights, so together with other industries, we developed the Evolved Nutrition Label.
FOP Label 2.0 – the Evolved Nutrition Label
Els de Groene, our Global Foods & Refreshment Director Nutrition Standards & Advocacy
“Since 2015, we’ve played an active role in the Evolved Nutrition Label (ENL) project in Europe. Working in a coalition of progressive companies, we established a taskforce to look at integrating smaller portion sizes into the existing colour-coded reference intakes scheme, as applied in the UK and Ireland. The taskforce was open to all interested stakeholders and was established to ensure an open, inclusive and transparent consultation process.
Together with the taskforce, it was decided that the colours of the label should be based on actual consumed portion sizes, instead of recommended portion sizes. Also, it was agreed that these actual consumed portion sizes should be determined by an independent scientific advisory committee. As a start, Emeritus Professor Gibney of Food and Health at University College, Dublin set out a study to explore the option of developing food portion size for nutritional labelling purposes using two European Union (EU) dietary surveys.
Several consumer studies were conducted, which showed ENL is understood and liked by consumers and helps them to make healthier food choices. Based on this, we decided to trial the label in Europe to test its effectiveness in real life. However, in November 2018, the companies involved decided to put the trial on hold. Although scientifically robust and liked by consumers, the lack of EU-defined portion sizes and the fact that the label has been developed by industry, has led to insufficient understanding and support of the proposed scheme.
Going forward, we will keep working towards the WHO’s ambition of having one simple, consistent, global FOP label. A key priority will be the development of EU-defined portion sizes and ensuring a principles-led discussion on FOP labelling.”
Nutrition & health claims
In nutrition labelling, accurate health claims are essential in building consumer trust. That is why we have a global position (PDF | 87KB) for making nutrition and health claims on our foods and refreshments.
The intention of our claims must be to provide people with product nutrition information to help them make informed, healthier choices. This information must be relevant and concise, and applies to health claims made on- pack or through other marketing channels.