Cheers, gasps of delight, and cries of ‘I can’t believe it!’ rung out across Which? HQ yesterday, as Tesco – the biggest supermarket in the UK – announced that it would be adding traffic light labelling to its food.
Which? has been campaigning on traffic light labelling for years – since long before I joined the team, and probably before I’d even heard of it. The news that Tesco is now going to add traffic light labelling to its food is a real win for consumers across the UK.
Over the last few years some supermarket chains and food manufacturers have agreed that yes, having ‘red, amber, green’ colours on food can help us make more informed choices about what we’re eating. Red, coupled with the word ‘high’ next to the salt content, for instance, can tell someone that this ready meal might be delicious but should probably not be combined with anything else too salty.
Some companies – Asda, The Co-op, M&S and Waitrose – have gone one step further and also included the percentage of your guideline daily amount, so you know exactly how much salt, fat and sugar you can have in a day.
Tesco’s announcement means it’s now in line with these others – displaying traffic lights and guideline daily amounts (GDA). Although Sainsbury’s doesn’t give customers the percentage of GDA, it was one of the first supermarkets to add traffic light colours to food packaging.
Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons – why not join the party?
But we’re not quite there yet – there are still some supermarkets and food manufacturers that aren’t offering this information. As Tesco admitted this week – consumer research shows that customers want to know, at a glance, the levels of salt, sugar and fat in the food they’re buying. So we’d like to see the other supermarkets follow in the footsteps of these other chains.
In an ideal world all supermarkets would follow the recommendations of the Food Standards Agency and display three things – traffic light colours, GDAs and text saying ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ (for those who might be unable to distinguish between the colours).
But, for now, we’d love to see everyone getting on board with the colours – one of the simplest changes to make and so effective in improving consumer information.
Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons all display the GDA but don’t put traffic light labelling on their packaging. We’re asking them to rethink and add clear colours on food packaging to let people know whether the salt, sugar or fat content is high, medium or low.
This is really important, especially because most people don’t have the time (and many don’t have the 20/20 eyesight) to scrutinise the small print on every packet. Nice clear traffic light colours make things so much easier. And, as Tesco has shown this week, even the biggest supermarkets can make the change.