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Snacking with the Stars: Food manufacturers respond to OPC claims

More than 63 per cent of snack bars on major supermarket shelves do not display the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, according to a new study by the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) which also claims some food manufactures only use the stars on high-rating products.

Introduced in June 2014, the government-led HSR is a voluntary system designed to help consumers compare the overall nutritional quality of supermarket food products at a glance, however, the system has not yet been widely adopted by food manufacturers.

The OPC surveyed 164 bars, including nut bars, muesli bars, fruit bars, oat slices and cereal bars, in major supermarkets. It found products which did not carry health stars were the least healthy, with most scoring between 1 and 2.5 out of a possible 5 stars.

Carman’s, Weight Watchers and Kellogg’s were among the brands the OPC study claims only use the health star labelling on high rating products.

In response to the OPC survey Carman’s told C&I Week the company has begun rolling out the ratings systems on its products “on a format by format basis”.

“At Carman’s we have included the HSR on most of our breakfast range and also on our core muesli bars; including products that have a HSR lower than four,” a Carman’s spokesperson said.

“We intend to roll out the HSR system across the entire range in line with mandatory requirements. A time-frame for this has not been put in place as the HSR system is currently under review and changes may be made to it.”

Carman’s founder, Carolyn Creswell, said the HSR shouldn’t be used as a short cut alone without the whole picture being taken into account.

“We at Carman’s think that choosing natural and real ingredients is important and so do a lot of our consumers.  Food additives are a major concern for many shoppers and the system doesn’t take these into account, so it shouldn’t be viewed in isolation,” Ms Creswell said.

A Kellogg’s spokesperson also told C&I Week the company will introduce the HSR system on new snack products from next month.

“In 2015 our focus was on ensuring that all of our cereals included the HSR system. This was completed in December 2015. We have now turned our attention to doing the same for our snacks,” the spokesperson said.

“We will begin to roll out HSR on snacks starting with new products from June and then across the rest of our range by the end of 2018. We’d encourage other manufacturers to follow suit and include the system across their entire snack foods to help make it easier for people to compare products that are in this section of the supermarket.

“At Kellogg’s we really want to be transparent, we want consumers to be able to make informed choices. Having focused our efforts on the cereals range last year – and having achieved the milestone of having the HSR across all of our cereal range, we are now moving on to our snacks range.

“Achieving the transition [to HSR labelling] is a big job; you have to sell through packaging, update all out packaging and print runs so it takes quite a bit of time.

“One of the great things about the HSR is it is now across most cereals, as most manufacturers have adopted it. We’d love to see the snacks follow and everybody, including all of our competitors, do the same.”

OPC calls for HSR to be mandatory

The OPC surveyed all multi-pack snack bars found in Woolworths in Wyndham Vale, Victoria, on April 4, 2016 and in Coles in Manor Lakes, Victoria, on April 22, 2016 to determine uptake of the Federal Government’s Health Star Rating System.

Bars which did not carry health stars on the product label were given a rating by entering the information on the product’s nutritional information panel into the calculator on the HSR website.

OPC executive manager, Jane Martin, said unless all brands put the stars on all products, it’s difficult for shoppers to compare at a glance and make an informed choice.

“Sixty two per cent of grocery buyers said they would use health stars if they were on muesli bars. It’s a quick and reliable way for consumers to cut through the spin and make healthier choices,” Ms Martin said.

According to Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2013 – June 2014, one in six or, 17 per cent of Australians aged 14 years and older, eat a muesli/health/fruit bar in an average week.

“Most people buy these products thinking they’re a healthy snack choice for themselves or their children. Many would be shocked to know that some Weight Watchers and Special K bars would score as low as 1.5 out of a possible 5 on the star rating system,” Ms Martin said.

“At a time when 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese, it’s disappointing that so many food companies are not supporting consumers with the information they need to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.”

“Coles, Woolworths and Uncle Tobys have set a great example by reformulating some of their products or introducing healthier options and using health star ratings across the board,” Ms Martin said.

“We want to see the Federal Government make the HSR System mandatory to ensure food manufacturers use the system as it was intended and display the stars on all of their packaged foods.”

Low rating snack bars

Product name and brand

Star rating

Display star rating?

Health claims on packaging

Carman’s Oat Slice (Cranberry & Blueberry)
1
No
Less than 10g sugar, Source of fibre, nut free
Carman’s Oat Slice (Golden Oat & Coconut)
1
No
Less than 10g sugar, Source of fibre, nut free
Coles Nut Bars Choc Coated Nut
1
Yes
N/A
Fontelle Oven baked Mini Meal (Choc Chip)
1
No
Excellent source of fibre
Kellogg’s Nutri Grain Bars
1
No
Made with corn, oats & wheat, Iron man fuel
Kellogg’s LCMs Rice Bubbles (Split Stix Banana Choc)
1
No
Natural banana flavour, no artificial flavours or colours
Kelloggs’s LCMs Rice Bubbles (Split Stix Yoghurty)
1
No
No artificial flavours or colours
Weight Watchers Cherry & Dark Chocolate Delight
1.5
No
No artificial colours or flavours, Less than 99 calories/bar
Weight Watchers Choc Delight
1.5
No
No artificial colours or flavours
Weight Watchers Coconut Delight
1.5
No
No artificial colours or flavours

 (Source: Obesity Policy Coalition)

High rating snack bars

Product name and brand

Star rating

Display star rating?

Health claims on packaging

Barley Max Goodness Superfoods Cereal Bar (Cranberry & Nut)
5
Yes
55% less sugar, Excellent source of fibre, low in salt
Go Natural Nut Delight the Original Chopped
4.5
Yes
Goodness of nuts, gluten free, cholesterol free, low sodium
Nestle Uncle Tobys Farmer’s Pick (Roasted Macadamia & Almond)
4.5
Yes
Source of fibre, Source of wholegrain
Barley Max Goodness Superfoods Cereal Bar (Wild Berries & Yoghurt)
4.5
Yes
25% less sugar, Excellent source of fibre, low in salt
Woolworths Macro Muesli Bars Mixed Nuts & Chia
4
Yes
Source of fibre
Carman’s Original Fruit Free Muesli Bars
4
Yes
Source of fibre, High in wholegrain, less than 7g sugar
Be Natural Trail Bars Honey Almonds & Peanuts
4
No
5 Whole Grains, High in Fibre
Nestle Uncle Tobys (Yoghurt & Apricot)
4
Yes
Source of fibre, Whole grain Lunchbox bars
Nestle Uncle Tobys (Yoghurt & Honeycomb)
4
Yes
Source of fibre, Wholegrain lunchbox bars
Select Mini Muesli Bars Strawberry Yoghurt
4
Yes
38% whole grains, real fruit pieces, source of fibre

 (Source: Obesity Policy Coalition)

 

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