Upmarket Cereal Brands Refuse to Change Packaging

High End Brands Feel Traffic Light System Will Deter Buyers

A pressure group is working alongside the government to persuade all breakfast cereal producers towards clearer labelling on sugar content.

The issue of “traffic light” style labels to give consumers at-a-glance information on the nutritional properties of their purchases and the content of fat, salt and sugar is one that has been around for the past ten years.

Attempts to make the coding mandatory on printed labels for all foods were voted down in 2010, but the system has, nevertheless, been adopted on a voluntary basis by a large proportion of manufacturers and sellers.

Intuitively, you might suppose that those who are the most reluctant to toe the line would be the budget brands. Yet we have discussed in the past how the natural human assumption that more expensive means better quality means more healthy is a progression based on false logic that does not bear up to closer scrutiny.

And the latest news that it is the higher end cereal manufacturers who are showing the greatest resistance to implement the traffic light system provides further evidence that paying a premium does not automatically imply you are taking the healthiest option.

What’s the fuss about?

The Department of Health recommends that food manufacturers include a coloured label on the front of their packaging that flags up sugar, salt and other ingredients. Many upmarket cereal brands are declining to include such labelling, as it would raise a red flag with regard to sugar content.

Pressure group Action Sugar is seeking to make the labelling mandatory. Campaign director Katharine Jenner described the inaction of some of the UK’s premium cereal manufacturers as “scandalous.” She suggested that if a cereal label does not give transparent information on the front of the package as to sugar content, consumers should assume the manufacturer has something to hide and vote with their feet.

The Group’s nutritionist, Kawther Hashem, added that the average cereal consumer could consume around 45 teaspoons, or 180g, less sugar every month if he or she was given consistent information by front of package labelling across all brands.

Which manufacturers?

The brands that are held up as the worst offenders come as some surprise. Market leader Kellogg’s is shy about advertising the sugar content of its Nut Clusters and Crunchy Nut Honey cereals, and Jordan’s was also held up as a bad example for refusing to add the labels to its Country Crisp with Crunchy Nuts cereal.

Perhaps even more surprising, however, is to see manufacturers that are synonymous with healthy, natural products for which customers pay well over the average price. These include brands commonly seen in health stores as well as supermarkets, such as Rude Health, Eat Natural, Nature’s Path and others.

Bowing to pressure?

The government and Action on Sugar are clearly seeking to shame manufacturers into adopting the front of package labelling system. With high profile reporting of the issues in publications such as the Daily Telegraph and the Huffington Post, it will be intriguing to see how they react to the pressure.