There’s no doubt that our nation’s Health is a matter of vital importance. After the magnificent spectacle of the London 2012 Olympic Games and what promises to be the most successful Paralympics in history, we have an opportunity to transform our approach to healthy and active lifestyles.
Much is already being said about the legacy of the Games and how they will influence the next generation. I for one am confident that they will inspire people to live a more active lifestyle, and Sainsbury’s has already pledged our support with, for example, our backing of the Sainsbury’s School Games.
But we also need to address the issue of what we eat. So news that Tesco has finally recognised the overwhelming benefits to consumers of traffic light labelling is to be welcomed. The more widespread adoption of front-of-pack labelling using both GDAs and multiple traffic lights will make it easier for all our customers to make healthier choices.
“Traffic lights make it easier for customers to make healthier choices “
Sainsbury’s was the first retailer to introduce front-of-pack labelling combining GDAs and traffic lights, back in 2005. We now use them on over 9,000 of our own-brand products, making us the most extensive adopter of this approach.
Our experience has shown us it works. Independent research by Ipsos MORI shows that over 80% of customers see traffic lights as useful, with 79% saying it influences what they buy.
And it’s not just what customers tell us. These findings are backed up by hard sales data from our stores. When we introduced traffic light labelling on fresh ready meals, customers changed what they bought. Sales of Be Good To Yourself Easy Steam Salmon and Tarragon - a product with mostly green traffic lights - went up 46.1%, but sales of Taste the Difference Moussaka - a product with mostly red traffic lights - fell 24%. Clear evidence that traffic light labelling shifts customer behaviour.
And traffic lights have had a number of wider benefits. One is that they have helped raise the bar for us in NPD. Having seen the impact on sales, our product developers were incentivised to reformulate our own-brand products to make them healthier and reduce the number of ‘red’ segments.
Sainsbury’s, Asda and M&S have all used traffic lights for a number of years, but this has been met with some resistance from others.
Over the next few months, most retailers and manufacturers will be repackaging their products to comply with the Food Information Regulation. This represents a huge opportunity.
For nearly a decade Sainsbury’s, consumer groups and others have argued that the use of GDAs and traffic lights on front of pack had real benefits. It’s time for common sense to prevail and for other food retailers and suppliers who have yet to adopt this approach to join together.
I hope that the benefits of combining GDAs and traffic lights, combined with this week’s announcement from Tesco, will prove to be a tipping point. Clear, consistent and effective labelling for customers will help them make healthier choices, wherever they shop.