Survey from Ulrick & Short shows consumers want simpler labels

Proposed EU legislation for nutrition labels bucks against consumer trends, British starch specialist says.

Do we really want mandatory origin labelling on meat products? Nutritional information on all processed foods? Actually, no, consumers overwhelmingly want simpler labels and fewer additives, according to a new survey commissioned by leading British-owned clean label ingredient specialist Ulrick & Short.

Food manufacturers are very much aware of the requirements of the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU 1169/2011 – also known as ‘FIC’), due to come into effect on December 13 this year. Only four months away from the introduction of the new guidelines, Ulrick & Short’s survey has highlighted key consumer concerns about food labelling and ingredients, which will not necessarily be addressed by the new regulations.

Changes in legislation required under FIC will include:

  • Mandatory nutrition information on processed foods (by 2016);
  • Mandatory origin labelling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry;
  • Highlighting allergens e.g. peanuts or milk in the list of ingredients;
  • Better legibility i.e. minimum size of text;
  • Requirements on information on allergens also cover non pre-packed foods including those sold in restaurants and cafés.

​However, in the survey – in which 2,000 consumers were questioned about their attitudes towards labelling and food content – the topic of greatest concern was the complexity of labels on food. An overwhelming 75 per cent of respondents stated that they would like to see simpler labelling, with nearly half – around 45 per cent – avoiding artificial additives such as e-numbers in their shopping basket.

Adrian Short, director of Ulrick & Short, said: “Our entire philosophy rests on our commitment to providing genuine clean label, non-GM alternatives to food ingredients, whether that’s removing additives such as phosphates, making food healthier by reducing fat or simply creating allergen-free versions of old favourites. As well as improving the nutritional profile of many products, U&S ingredients provide manufacturers with the means to effortlessly simplify and clean up their ingredient declarations – which is clearly what consumers want.

“Over 70 per cent of survey respondents said that they are much more aware of their eating habits than they used to be, indicating that they are more likely to pay attention to what is in their food. FIC will actually add to the burden on food manufacturers, requiring them to include even more information on their packaging. There’s no better time to take a good look at making better use of clean label ingredients, not just for health or cost reasons but to clean up ingredient declarations and meet the demand from consumers for simpler, clearer labelling.”

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