Proposed nutrition label changes a welcome improvement for Canadian shoppers

July 1, 2015
4 min read

For the second time since 2007, Canada’s nutrition labels are being revised. Mintel’s research shows that determining the healthiness of a product is a challenge for many grocery shoppers, a task that will be made simpler with the proposed label changes. Here, Mintel’s Senior Lifestyle and Leisure Analyst Carol Wong-Li discusses the proposed changes and the implications for Canadian consumers, as well as brands.

What are the proposed changes?

On June 12, 2015, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Ministry of Health, unveiled proposed changes to nutritional labelling regulations in order to provide Canadians with the information they need to make healthy food choices. The proposed changes will target the nutrition facts table, provide clarity on information pertaining to sugars and make the ingredient list easier to find and understand. To help Canadians compare similar foods, the proposed changes for the nutrition table will show consistent serving sizes in amounts that are realistic to the quantity typically eaten in one sitting. For example, a serving size for bread may be shown as two slices and paired with the weight in grams. Calorie information will be easier to find with increased font size and the nutrients providing calories listed directly below. Sugars, accounting for carbohydrates as well as fibres, will be shown as a percent daily value (% DV). Canadians will be able to gauge the % DV against a proposed footnote specifying that 5% or less is a little, 15% or more is a lot.

The proposed changes to the ingredient list will also help consumers identify all sugar-based ingredients by listing them in brackets under “sugars”  (fancy, molasses, honey, malted barley, glucose-fructose, fruit juices or concentrates, for example). As the sources of sugars will appear by weight from most to least, consumers will be able to tell how much added sugar a food has compared to other ingredients. The ingredient list will also show food colours by their common names and include information regarding the priority food allergens, gluten sources or added sulfites contained in the product.

Good news for Canadian grocery shoppers

From a consumer standpoint, these changes should resonate as health-related queries are top of mind for many grocery shoppers, according to research from Mintel’s Grocery Retailing Canada 2015 report. This is particularly true for those buying groceries for their families, with 37% of parents with young children under age five at home finding it hard to determine if a product is healthy or not. Clarity surrounding nutrition, especially sugar, will become increasingly important as the prevalence of obesity has increased alongside decreasing fitness levels. Currently, one in four adult Canadians and one in 10 children are clinically obese, meaning six million Canadians living with obesity require immediate support in managing and controlling their excess weight.

The quest to understand healthiness of products and healthy eating in general is demonstrated by the 35% of parents with children 18 and under expressing an interest in using an in-store dietician for consultation or advice in order to help them make healthier choices according to Mintel’s research. To this end, Minister Ambrose also announced two new public education tools to help Canadians apply the dietary guidance of Canada’s Food Guide to build a healthy meal alongside the proposed changes to nutrition labels. Combined with current efforts put forth by grocery retailers – such as the Guiding Stars program from Loblaws which uses a three-star rating system to score the nutrient density of foods – consumers should be better equipped to make healthier choices.

What about brands?

Ahead of these changes, brands and companies will need to anticipate how the serving size changes will impact product perception as it relates to nutritional information and consider aligning products according to consumer expectations. The labelling changes may also provide an opportune opening to promote any nutritional ‘advantages’ a product may offer through marketing and packaging.

Carol Wong-Li is a Senior Lifestyle and Leisure Analyst at Mintel, researching and writing reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries. She has worked in market research and consulting for over 8 years both on the research and supplier side.

Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li

Carol Wong-Li is Mintel’s Director of Consumers & Culture Reports.

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