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Watchdog questions private label nutrient-inferiority claims

By Neil Merrett , 20-Apr-2009
Last updated the 20-Apr-2009 at 13:20 GMT

Australian claims that consumers may be cutting nutritional value - as well as spending – by consuming more private label goods are not being backed by one European health group, which suggests there is dietary parity with branded goods.

Consumer Focus, a UK-based Watchdog group, told BeverageDaily.com that amidst spending fears related to the downturn, increasing consumer interest in own brand goods was not likely to set back shoppers’ nutrient intake.

“The good news for consumers is that our research shows that economy food ranges are not necessarily less healthy,” said a spokesperson for the group. “Salt and saturated fat levels vary widely, but the nutritional content of own-brand goods is on the whole similar to that of other products.”

Despite the claims, the chief executive of Australian health group, the Heart Foundation, last week called on supermarkets in the country to improve the nutritional profiles of their private label products.

‘Energy dense’

Dr Lyn Roberts suggested that ongoing research of 5,000 packaged food products had by the group found private label products generally contained much higher levels of sodium, saturated and trans fats, in an address to the National Press Club.

Along with wider-concerns about the amount of physical activity undertaken by consumers, the availability of ‘energy dense’ private label products was picked as another major health concern by the charity.

“We would like supermarkets to ensure that private label products are no less healthy than the more expensive foods,” stated Roberts.

Labelling needs

Despite finding little variance between private label and branded goods in relation to nutrient profiles, Consumer Focus did suggest that retailers had to do more to provide clearer labelling to ensure informed consumer choice relating to diet.

“We also want to see salt and saturated fat levels reduced by manufacturers wherever possible, and supermarkets promoting healthier food products,” stated a spokesperson for the organisation.

While the findings were not specifically related to beverage products, the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) said that drinks suppliers in the county, be they private-label or branded manufacturers, were all having to satisfy consumers’ dietary and value for money needs.

“Health and wellbeing continues to be a core area of focus for the soft drinks industry and manufacturers are producing products that satisfy people’s individual dietary needs as well as offering value for money,” said a BSDA spokesperson.

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