Consumer input helps UK food industry create guidelines for portion sizes

Posted by James Ferre on 4th December 2009

Voluntary guidelines for UK food and beverage companies on communicating portion size have been created with the assistance of food and grocery experts IGD. The guidelines are designed to help people eat appropriately sized portions of food and drink within a healthy balanced diet.

“We recognise that, as an industry, we have a role to play in helping consumers make informed choices for a healthy lifestyle,” Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive at IGD, said. “We conducted consumer research to gain a better understanding of attitudes and behaviours towards portion size information on food, and found that a simpler more consistent approach was needed. We have developed these voluntary guidelines based on what consumers have told us will be helpful.”

In 2008 IGD’s Industry Nutrition Strategy Group set up a working group involving representatives from across the grocery and foodservice sectors. The group reviewed portion size information on labels. None of the approaches were incorrect or inaccurate; all were underpinned by sound science. But some inconsistencies were identified that could be rectified with simple changes.

For example, some ready meals display nutritional information on the front of pack as ‘per serving’, but on the back as ‘per pack’. The new guidelines recommend that the number of servings is shown clearly on the front of pack, and that the nutrition information – whether ‘per serving’ or ‘per pack’ – is consistent on the front and back.

“We know that it can be difficult for customers to manage and judge how much food to serve to their family or themselves. The reality is that customers don’t want portion information to be prescribed, but see it as a helpful guide when cooking and buying food,” explained Claire Hughes, company nutritionist at Marks and Spencer and chair of the Portion Size Working Group. “The food industry generally provides nutrition information per portion on a voluntary basis on packaged food, but our research showed that there were number of inconsistencies in how this was presented.”

“The IGD guidelines are designed around what works best for the customer; this is invaluable for industry.”