Nestlé, the world's largest food company, responding to pressure both from consumer groups and legislators, announced Thursday it will use the UK to launch a worldwide food relabeling program.
The Vevey, Switzerland headquartered company intends its new labelling system to provide detailed nutritional information. The initiative will apply to all Nestlé brands sold in the UK, ranging from pasta products through coffee and confectionery to cereals and yogurts.
Explains Alastair Sykes, chairman/ceo at Nestlé UK: "Consumers have told us that they care about their health and that they want clearer, easy-to-understand information about the content and, where appropriate, the nutritional benefits of our products. The changes we are making will meet those needs."
And from Vevey, spokesman Francois-Xavier Perroud confirmed that the company will revamp product labeling in most other world markets this year as well. "The primary focus will be European markets," he said.
Nestle has been working on the plan for some time, although it declined to hang a price tag on the process. Perroud denied the move is an attempt to head off legislation on obesity concerns.
The denial met with scepticism from food industry analysts: "The move has to be seen in the context of the recent health debate," opined Patrick Hasenboehler of Bank Sarasin. He also questioned whether nutritional information on chocolate and confectionery labels would influence young consumers.
"I don't think that teenagers, the group most exposed to sweets, will closely read what's inside the product," he said, adding that he saw no reason to revise Nestlé's earnings estimates in the light of its relabeling policy.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff