The other day, I read about the ban on large sugary drinks in NYC and also that McDonald’s will clearly indicate the calorie count on all their menus… all this in the hope that it will reduce obesity in the US. I know very well that my opinion on what to indicate on food and beverage packages differs a lot from what governments and nutritional specialists prescribe. What I suggest in this article is not a solution, but a contribution to today’s debate about the problem of overweight among the population.
I hope that what I suggest can enlighten a little the debate as I find that too much deals with figures which very few people understand or even are interested in.
During my Nestlé years, I was exposed to a variety of cultures and I learned, little by little, what really interests the consumers. Having always been interested in communication – and what better place to communicate than at the back of a package – I got the nickname “Mr Back panel”. Here is what I’ve found should be on this service (back) panel.
First: How to best enjoy the product, i.e. preparation instructions.
Second: an easy readable ingredients list, preferably positive text on a light background, short lines as in a newspaper, typesize at least 6-8 points, i.e. at least 3mm height set in lower case lettering.
Third: nutritional information per 100g, i.e. proteins, calories, etc. not necessarily in table form so as to save space. However,
- this should not be obligatory on products like Tabasco, etc. where you only use a few drops;
- if the value is 0% or 0g, don’t print it! It liberates space for other important texts which can then be bigger. (This is plain common sense!)
Then come other essential information such as
- big website and QR code (to obtain further information);
- storage instructions;
- highlighting ingredients which may cause allergies, etc.
So long, so good! And now comes the surprise for some readers…
Instead of the GDA, I would, on the front, inform the consumer about the positive sides of my product, i.e. taste, structure, flavour, digestion, stimulance, etc.
On the back, I would start ‘educating’ the consumer that in order to avoid overweight it is all about the balance of “calories intake vs. calories burnt”. Those who learn how to eat, drink and exercise will most likely never have a weight problem. I would print at the bottom of all my packages the following message expressed as “good habits rings”:
Space is available for these rings if one deletes duplications of certain information and reduces what is legally not obligatory. The rings can be explained as follows:
Exercise! Move! i.e. burn the calories you get from these tasty food and drinks. As earlier generations had not yet invented the car, they walked from one place to another which kept them fit. The body is in best shape if being active.
We should promote the pleasure of food, to sit down and enjoy, i.e. be aware of aromas, flavours, etc. and avoid eating on the go which is just replenishing the stomach. Cultures where food is taken ‘more seriously’ (China, Italy, France, etc.) have less obese people!
As a producer of food and drink, I am obviously not interested in selling less! I just want the consumer to eat differently, i.e. less each time and more often.
Yes, I know you can’t explain all the above on a pack, but by repetition of the 3 “good habits rings” the consumer is always reminded of the basics for a healthy lifestyle.
Maybe the above is wishful thinking, but I hope that when the legislators discuss what to print on packages and how, they take the above into consideration.