Last week, Jane Landon - deputy CEO of the UK Health Forum - expressed her lack of surprise that the newly proposed health kitemark was being ditched due to lack of consumer approval and trust. I wasn’t surprised either.
Health labelling is complicated enough: only the elite healthies can truly decipher what’s in food and drink products these days - most people just go with their gut feeling.
We consumers shop as humans, not robots or food scientists. We are only now getting used to the traffic light system and starting to trust it as ‘the rough guide to healthiness’ - why on earth would we want or trust yet another newfangled health messaging mechanic?
It is tricky, because we are in a climate where health is high on the agenda for every business. Everyone is trying to do their bit to reduce the cost of poor health to the economy. It has to be done. retailers are being charged with removing five billion calories per day and 19m kg of salt from diets. That doesn’t happen overnight. Many businesses are desperately trying to cut back and take out the bad stuff while retaining a core loyal base of consumers. Not easy but not impossible.
Consider up-and-coming technologies such as high-pressure pasteurisation, which is becoming scaleable and more mainstream. The natural goodness and nutrition trapped into fresh frozen goods is another area that should see growth.
It doesn’t look quite so rosy for the categories that are all about reduction in their quest to become healthier. It also raises the question about what the future holds for the faux-healthy brands, those categories that are currently held up as sources of health for all the family, when in fact they are often loaded with hidden baddies.
“Why would we trust another health messaging mechanic?”
The sugar content of dairy desserts, cereal and free-from brands, the salt-packed ‘healthy’ salads all of these have grown up in holier than thou, ‘mums can always trust me’ categories - aren’t they just failing us? Their health credentials have escaped questioning, until now.
One thought further: should brands be measured on giving society the right health information they need and deserve to make positive and good decisions for their families, escaping the smoke and mirrors? Leading reatailers are being held up for misleading on promotions, so should brands be held up for misleading families with their health credentials?
What we’re seeing is some categories full of health charlatans and others full of health champions. Which are you? Is your brand conscience clear or cloudy?
Claire Nuttall is founding partner of Thrive