Hain Celestial Group Challenges Competitors to Improve Food Labeling


The Hain Celestial Group, a company known for its expansive natural and organic product portfolio, issued a challenge on October 29 for consumer packaged goods (CPG) food manufacturers to adopt higher truth in labeling standards for all food products sold in the United States. The call to action was inspired by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) admission in a letter to the food industry that programs such as the “Smart Choices” labeling campaign may end up misleading consumers.

Smart Choices, which includes participating companies such as Kellogg, Kraft Foods and General Mills, came under scrutiny for promoting processed foods such as sugary breakfast cereals as being nutritious on the front of the label. The nine participating companies have agreed to voluntarily suspend the program based on the FDA’s announcement that it will investigate front of package labeling.

“It is time that the consumer packaged goods industry stops practices that create consumer confusion by front-labeling products as natural and healthful,” said Irwin D. Simon, president and CEO of the Hain Celestial Group. “We have long been troubled by packaging practices that lead consumers to believe that a product is healthful, when natural ingredients are just a very small percentage of the product and are accompanied by detrimental ones.”

Nutrition Business Journal wrote about the front of package labeling confusion and the frustration it was causing parents in the April 2009 Healthy Kids issue. “What moms and dads are telling us is that they don't trust manufacturers in terms of how they are labeling,” said Brent Baarda, Information Resources Incorporated’s (IRI) director of consulting and innovation and author of the company's Healthy Kids II report. Baarda pointed to Nabisco’s Reduced-Fat Oreos as an example of a product label that could mislead parents. “They know that ‘reduced fat’ sells and ‘low sugar’ and ‘low sodium’ sell, but these products don't really help the mom who has an overweight kid.”

The standards being proposed by the Hain Celestial Group would ensure that food labels clearly identify the product’s benefits without masking negatives by addressing actual ingredient and health benefits on packaging in a clear and consistent manner. The company also encourages CPG manufacturers to adopt a standard for natural and “healthful” products. It suggests the use of a similar model to the National Organic Program (NOP) standards published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Hain has established a website (www.ahealthywayoflife.com) to educate the public on what constitutes a natural product.

Related NBJ Links:
Consumers Seek More Detailed Food Labeling
M&A Deals, Financing Slow to a Crawl in 2008 for N&OPC Market
Hain’s Profits Take a Hit in Fiscal 2009 Q2

Related Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine links:
Companies to Discontinue Smart Choices

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