Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

New app hopes to help consumers – and influence industry

Image courtesy of Voedingscentrum

Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, Dutch government organization Nutrition Centre has launched a new app that allows consumers to scan food products to find the healthiest option.

The app, called “Am I choosing healthy?” (“Kies Ik Gezond?”), shows a product’s ingredients and nutrition values. It aims to cut out the hassle of reading the small print on the label, and allows shoppers to prioritise nutritional values – calories, carbs or fat for example – so they show up first in the list. Consumers can also compare up to three products to choose the healthiest one.

“We’ve come to learn that not many people take the time to read the label. The Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports asked the Nutrition Centre to develop an app with the goal to help people choose the healthier option,” Wieke van der Vossen, Food Safety and Labelling at Nutrition Centre and project leader told New Nutrition Business.

The Nutrition Centre says its goal is to increase consumers’ awareness of what they’re choosing to eat. Although the app can be used by anyone, they expect it to be used mainly by people who already have an interest in nutrition and want to improve their knowledge.

“Even I had an eye-opener,” Van der Vossen said. “I was scanning this can of beans and the app said it’s not in the [Dutch dietary guidelines] Wheel of Five. I was surprised why it wasn’t because it’s just beans and there’s nothing else there, so why shouldn’t it be in the Wheel of Five? The app showed me that it had so many hidden added sugars that you wouldn’t know about unless you read the small print on the label.” If the product is not in the Wheel of Five, the app can suggest a healthier alternative.

The question is whether people will take the time to scan each product they’re considering buying in the supermarket. “Of course you can scan products in the supermarket while you’re shopping,” said Van der Vossen. “But I think there will be more people who’ll be either scanning at home the products they have been buying for years or will start searching for products before going to do grocery shopping. I think some people will be surprised about some food choices they’ve been making and maybe even start replacing some with different brands.”

The goal of the app is not only to increase consumers’ awareness, but also hopefully to have an effect on food companies. The app’s ability to compare products’ nutritionally with each other has started an online discussion, giving some companies heat.

“We’re planning to do consumer research later on this year to assess consumer awareness, use of the app, and whether the app has been influencing their choices at all,” said Van der Vossen. “In later stages, we’d like to research whether the app has had an effect on food products being launched in the Netherlands. It would be interesting to see if food companies will start taking a different approach as well,” she added.

By: Ann Eshaw

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Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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