Nutrient Content Claims can give you a sales advantage.
A big one.
Now you’re probably wondering what are health claims you can make?
Health claims on food labels and packaging are nutrient content claims.
They refer to the nutritional content of the food or the relationship the food can have to a persons health. These seriously powerful sales tools are voluntary statements used by the food or beverage producer.
Displaying health claims on food labels in Australia requires adhering to the Food Standards Code. There are five types of Health Claims allowed on food labels. In simple English I will explain these, what they mean and give you real life examples of health claims.
So, lets start at the beginning.
I’ll try not to make it feel like you’re eating Weetbix without milk. Here goes…
“What Are Health Claims?”, I hear you ask.
Well, they are the representation, implied statement or design that references the presence or absence of a substance in a consumable product. In simple terms it’s things like: gluten free, high in fibre or low in sugar.
Sure they may just be a few words, but they pack a punch. There is no doubt, that sales can be greatly influenced by health claims on food packaging. I want you to get it right so you are not slapped with a hefty infringement notice (which can be up to $200 000). Whoa!
There are a lot of rules around usage of these product label claims. Let’s talk about what are the (many) rules. By the way, I’m not just referring to what’s on a label, but on all food packaging being sold in Australia and New Zealand.
Examples of Health claims & OTHER CLAIMS
These compelling phrases can often make or break the sale, here are some examples of health claims that have a powerful impact on whether the consumer chooses to purchase.
The Golden Rule
The key rule to remember is that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)* is looking for the truth. Which sounds pretty straight forward, but can really be quite a fine line. Your product contents and what you want to claim will define what the truth is.
Remembe, honesty is always the best policy, especially when it comes to making product label claims. This golden rule will keep you out of strife.
Any claims that are false, misleading or deceptive may get you into big trouble.
In deciding whether product labelling or promotional marketing material is correct, the ACCC considers what ordinary members of the target audience would conclude to be ‘false or misleading’. This includes not only what is actually stated, but also what is implied by the use of words or images. Meaning both the content and design of infographics, symbols and logo’s are equally important.
There are 5 types of claims:
- Nutrient and Health Claims
- Absolute Claims
- Credence Claims
- Endorsement Claims
- Product of Origin Claims
NUTRIENT & HEALTH CLAIMS
All Nutrient and Health Claims are required to be substantiated by scientific evidence – (I can almost hear you sigh). Don’t worry, these can either be pre-approved by FSANZ or self-substantiated by the business making the claim.
Nutrient Content Claims
Nutrient Content Claims are specific statements about the content or absence of particular nutrients. These are claims like ‘High in Protein’, ‘Good source of Fibre’ and ‘Low Sugar’.
They can shape a whole sector or category for years. They attract consumers who follow trends or are seeking a healthier diet. An example of this, is the ‘Low in Fat’ trend for the dairy sector in early 2000’s which later got slammed in the media for being high in sugar. More recently, the ’no refined sugar’ trend is booming business.
Nutrient Content Claims include ‘lite’ or ‘light’, likewise ‘reduced’ or ‘low’ when used as part of the name of the food or in the descriptor.
These are very powerful claims and they must be substantiated with evidence. The evidence should be shown in your Nutrition Information Panel and be backup up with proof.
There are two types of Health Claims that are important to understand:
1. General Level Health Claims
2. High Level Health Claims
General Level Health Claims
General Level label claims imply the food will provide a positive health effect on the human body. A health effect can influence in any of the following;
– growth and development
– physical or mental performance
– disease or medical condition
– the functional, physiological or biochemical process or outcomes.
When the nutrient has a relationship to the health benefit you are making a General Level Health Claim. For example: ‘contains calcium for healthy bones and teeth’ or ‘fibre for improved bowel function’. Such an assertion is related to a specific nutrient content in the food.
High Level Health Claims
High Level food label claims imply the nutrient content claim will provide a positive impact on a serious disease, such as:
– High blood pressure
– Heart disease
– Neural tube defects.
To make a High Level claim you must use one of the 13 pre-approved food-health relationships in Schedule 4 of the Food Standards Code.
High Level Health Claims examples:
– Omega-3 fatty acids AND cardiovascular disease
– Saturated fat and/or trans fat AND elevated serum cholesterol or heart disease
– Calcium (with or without Vitamin D) AND osteoporosis
Incidentally, claims such as ‘healthy for your body’ are not allowed under any circumstances.
Nutrition Profiling Scoring Calculator
Another requirement for making a Health Claim is that is must meet the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC). The calculator can help you determine your score and you will find more detailed information in the Consumer Guide To NPSC.
These things can be super tricky so if you need help the person to contact is a food technologist. I provide a list of trusted Food Technologists in my free Suppliers Guide, which you can download here.
The Standard has over 200 pre-approved food-health relationships which you can use. Yes, that’s right – you can’t actually just make up the wording you want unless you are making a self-substantiated claim. Either way, you must be able to prove it. Where a nutrient or biologically active substance is mentioned on a label, it is required to be listed in the Nutrition Information Panel.
The review process in Schedule 6 of the Food Standards Code enables you to determine what you can use. Download the Code here.
MY TOP TIP FOR NUTRIENT & HEALTH CLAIMS: Avoid grey area words like health, healthy or healthiest. Breaching these can have very serious implications for the manufacturer.
Luv-A-Duck was ordered to pay $360 000 for making misleading claims that their ducks were ‘grown and grain fed in the spacious Victorian Wimmera Wheatlands’.
Credence Claims provide the consumer with a belief in the quality of a product. Consumers must trust the seller and are not able to independently prove these claims are truthful. They are very broad terms. When claimed or implied on food labels Credence Claims have non-nutrient characteristics like, ‘best, pure, vital, essential and premium’. Products often use such claims as ‘Fodmap friendly, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘free range’ and more recently ‘free to roam’. These can also be process related claims such as ‘Pasteurised’ and ‘Sustainably Farmed’.
Credence Claims are not regulated by Standard 1.2.7, but nevertheless are required to be truthful and can be prosecuted, if deemed appropriate by the ACCC, who is monitoring their use closely.
MY TIP TOP TIP FOR CREDENCE CLAIMS: Use extra care and thought as Credence Claims can be interpreted as false, misleading or deceptive Nutrient Content Claims. If you decide to use a them Credence Claims, be sure you are able to substantiate it with evidence. .
Can you spot the Credence Claims?
An endorsement is a nutrition content claim or health claim that is made with the permission of an endorsing body.
Endorsement Claims often cross paths with Nutrient Content Claims. It is used in conjunction with another organisation. The most lucrative and highly sort after endorsing body in Australia is the Australian Organic Certification (AOC).
Of course awards from reputable sources are usually very welcome by consumers.
Halal is an optional certification and is becoming more popular here in Australia. In relation to food, it refers to a method of livestock slaughtering consistent with Islamic rites. In Australia there are 22 Islamic groups approved by the federal government and they have different symbols. This is the most visible in the mainstream retailers certified through Halal Certification Authority (HCA).
MY TIP TOP TIP FOR ENDORSEMENT CLAIMS: Such claims as the Health Star Rating and Heart Foundation have had quite negative press, but they still have value as they are individual to peoples needs.
Popular Endorsements In Australia
PRODUCT OF ORIGIN CLAIMS
Country of Origin Food Label regulations, known as CoOL, apply to food for retail sale in Australia, including in stores or markets, online or from a vending machine.
Words and symbols as ‘Proudly Australian owned’ or ‘100% Australian’ or ‘an Australian flag’ tells you are allowed as long as they are truthful and accurate. However these cannot replace CoOL, they may be used as well as not instead of.
Understanding the guidelines for the CoOL reguations is important.
First you will want to determine if you have a Priority and Non-priority food. It is important that businesses understand the distinction between these terms so that they can label their products correctly.
Second, you will need to identify and prove if it was grown, produced, made or packed in Australia or another country.
Country of Origin Label can be on the front or back and there are many formats.
CoOL Key Points
• A claim that a product was ‘grown in’ a particular country is generally used for fresh food (for example, fruit and vegetables) and means that that food was in fact grown in the country claimed. Foods with multiple ingredients can also generally claim to have been ‘grown’ in a specified country, as long as all significant ingredients are from that country and virtually all processing occurred in that country. However, a priority food can only claim to have been ‘Grown in Australia’ if it contains exclusively Australian ingredients.
• Claiming that a food is the ‘product of’ a specified country means that all significant ingredients in the food as from the specified country and virtually all processing has been done in that country. This claim is commonly used for both fresh and processed foods. Like the ‘grown in’ claim, a priority food can only claim to be a ‘Product of Australia’ if it contains exclusively Australian content.
• The ‘made in’ claim means that food underwent its last substantial transformation in the country specified (this doesn’t necessarily mean that any ingredients are from that country).
• Depending on the circumstances, the Standard may require, or permit, a food to be labelled with information about where it was packaged. A food that cannot claim to have been grown, produced or made in a particular country will generally be labelled according to where it was ‘packed in’.
Also, businesses may voluntarily choose to provide country of origin information for food that is exempt from the Standard. Using it, means you will be required to comply with the Standard regarding the use of those graphics.
MY TIP TOP TIP FOR USING COOL: There’s plenty more information about applying the CoOL symbol in my easy to read summary, Country Of Origin Labelling.
When Maggie Beer labelled her vinegar under her brand and claimed on the back of the label ‘A Barossa Tradition’ – implying the products were made in the Barossa Valley when they are being manufactured by 3rd parties in Victoria and Qld she was fined handsomely by the ACCC.
Finally, it goes without saying (but I will say it because it surprises me what some people want to claim)… avoid totally illegal statements. These are wildly exaggerated and untrue phrases like ‘Best bread ever baked in Australia’ or ‘1 Tablespoon per day will cure cancer’. They are known as ‘puffery.
Product label claims make a point of difference, they help engage the consumer, offer something the competitors may not. Product benefit claims encourage purchasing and brand loyalty.
Each year in Australia the ACCC receives about 160 000 complaints which translate into about 30 compliance and enforcement matters and then issues approximately 30 infringement notices. So always ensure your product label claims are true and you have proof. I am here to help if you have any questions.
To prove your claim is truthful you may consider keeping the follow types of documentation:
• test results from a laboratory
• documents demonstrating a product complies with The Code Standard 1.2.7, in Schedules 4 and 6
• Getting Your Claims Right has a checklist.
If you found value in this article you may also be interested in Label Design Essential Checklist.
*Australian Consumer Law (ACL) protects consumers. This law is enforced by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state trading agencies. Among other things the ACCC promotes competitive and fair markets and they have a ‘compliance and enforcement policy’ for all businesses, which includes label, packaging and sticker claims.
**Act means the Act, as amended or, as the case may be, ordinance of a state, territory, external territory, Commonwealth or New Zealand, under the authority of which the Food Standards Code is enforced.
Note: Information in the article is not legal advice. The word label relates to any reference to the words in a brand name, product label or packaging, tag or statement on or attached to any packaged food or drinks. The phrases ‘food labels’ and ‘food packaging’ refers to beverages too.
Resources for making nutrition and health claims, visit:
– Getting Your Claims Right
– Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)
– Country of Origin Label Standard