Canned vegetables manufacturer feels need is too urgent to wait for government decision
HAK will not be waiting for the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to make a final decision on a new nutrition label that is to replace the previously used ‘healthy option’ check mark, which was discontinued in 2016. Following its decision to launch the Nutri-Score label in the Belgian market, the canned vegetables manufacturer will be adding the label to its products sold at Dutch retailers starting 1 September 2019.
A proven labelling system for nutritional content, Nutri-Score encourages consumers to choose healthy products while doing their grocery shopping. What makes the nutrition label unique is that it rewards products with valuable nutritional properties, such as protein, fibre and high fruit and vegetable content, with higher scores. HAK – an NPM Capital portfolio company – therefore expects the introduction of Nutri-Score to boost vegetable consumption, a particularly relevant social issue in the Netherlands, whose population consumes fewer vegetables than any other European country. People in the Netherlands eat an average of 134 grams of vegetables a day (data supplied by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), a quantity that has remained virtually unchanged for years. The Netherlands Nutrition Centre Foundation (Voedingscentrum) recommends 250 grams of vegetables and two portions of fruit a day.
The Nutri-Score system was developed by Oxford University, after which it was further refined in France. The system consists of a 5-colour scale, with each of the five colour codes representing a letter: A indicates the healthiest choice, while an E grade means the product should be consumed sparingly. The score is calculated based on a system that factors in overall nutritional content, where positive and negative elements are weighed against each other. High sugar, saturated fat, calorie and salt content lower the score, while scores are boosted by high proportions of fruit, vegetables, fibre and protein.
The introduction of the Nutri-Score system is championed by national organisations in the Netherlands such as the Dutch Food Retail Association (Centraal Bureau voor de Levensmiddelenhandel/CBL), the Dutch Consumer Association (Consumentenbond) and food industry watchdog Foodwatch. HAK CEO Timo Hoogeboom states that, with such widespread support, he does not comprehend why Paul Blokhuis, the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, remains on the fence. Hoogeboom: “Numerous organisations have endorsed the system, which moreover has already been introduced in three other European countries, is scientifically sound, and has already been successfully tested in practice. Given the urgency of the problem of low rates of vegetable consumption in the Netherlands, our company no longer wants to wait for a decision that may be pushed back to next year, and will now become the first food company in the Netherlands to implement the Nutri-Score system.”
Hoogeboom feels it is HAK’s responsibility as the leading Dutch vegetable brand to speed up the nationwide rollout of the Nutri-Score labelling system. “If it were up to us, other food producers should soon follow suit. The Consumentenbond launched a European citizens’ initiative this week to get Nutri-Score on the European Commission’s agenda. We welcome this initiative, but feel that producers have their own individual role to play as well,” Hoogeboom says.
Choosing healthier alternatives
HAK favours the introduction of the Nutri-Score label because research has shown that a colour logo of this type is the most effective way to help consumers choose healthy options when grocery shopping. The Nutri-Score label is similar to the well-established energy performance label, and unlike many other systems Nutri-Score tells consumers in a straightforward and transparent way the nutritional value of the product they are buying. The system has already been implemented in France, Spain and, most recently, Belgium.
Boosting vegetable consumption
Hoogeboom sees the positives of helping consumers by offering them a clear logo that shows the nutritional properties of food products: “Driven by our corporate mission, we feel it’s important that consumers are facilitated in pursuing a more plant-based diet by increasing their consumption of vegetables and legumes. Vegetables have a very high nutritional content on account of the large amounts of fibre, protein and vitamins they contain. That’s why nearly all our products receive an ‘A’ score. If we want to incite consumers in an uncomplicated way to eat more vegetables and legumes, a positive Nutri-Score will undeniably have a motivational effect.”