The Department of Health has endorsed a system from Action on Sugar which calls for a ‘traffic light’ nutritional information on the front of food and drinks packaging.
The colour-code uses red for high, amber for medium and green for low on labels to indicate levels of fat, sugars and salt and, although not compulsory, brands are encouraged to use the system so that they can be fair and transparent and allow consumers to make informed decisions – at a glance – about the products they are purchasing.
Ok, we know the details are already on the back but, let’s face it, unless your health really depends on it, how many of us actually take time to read the nutritional information on the back of packages whilst doing the weekly shop? We’d be in the supermarket for hours if we did!
The main manufacturers under attack from Action on Sugar for deciding not to display the colour-coded labels are breakfast cereal producers, many of whom would be sporting a red label because of the exorbitant quantities of sugar in many sweet starts to the day.
The brands accused of ‘hiding something’ are Kelloggs, Nestle Jordans and Bear, with Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Honey and Nut Clusters and Jordans Country Crisp with Crunchy Chunky Nuts being products that are singled out because the campaigners believe they are so high in sugar that customers need to be aware of it.
You can kind of see why the brands have taken the decision to bury their heads in the sand (or should that be sugar?!) By slapping on a red label that says ‘tooth rot this way’, they are likely to talk themselves out of a bunch of consumers in quick time (except for those crunchy nuts who don’t care what they are putting into their bodies).
On the flip side though, nutritional information on the back of boxes can be confusing and not everyone knows what they are looking for, so it is very easy for purchasers to be misled. To that end, an ‘in your face’ colour code it just the ticket for those that are unsure as to exactly what all the facts and figures mean.
If cereal shoppers could make a decision based on consistent front of pack labelling, they could choose to save themselves in the region of 45 teaspoons of sugar per month. And that’s a lot of sugar.
In response to the ‘scandal’, a Kellogg’s spokesperson said the brand was: “committed to improving the nation’s diet. Our long-term sugar reduction programme has already seen sugar come down in some of our biggest brands while removing 2,000 tonnes of sugar from the nation’s diet by the end of 2017.”
Really? So why no red label then?
I guess it’s fear that they will lose brand loyalty if people could easily see and understand how unhealthy a start to the day these breakfast cereals really are.
Transparency is key
On the contrary though, in the modern world, transparency can actually help increase customer loyalty, particularly in the long-term.
Companies can actually improve consumer satisfaction by being more open with the public.
As the Dalai Lama put it: “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
And insecure customers don’t make for happy – or loyal customers. Whereas if you tell the truth about operations, process, policies and expectations (and ingredients and nutritional information when it comes to edible products), the end-user has a better experience and, therefore, gains more trust in your organisation.
In a 2016 product data study by Label Insight, 94% of consumers said they are more likely to remain loyal to a transparent brand, as compared to those that choose to withhold information.
In the 21st Century, it seems customers are attracted to authenticity and, in today’s (social) media savvy world, it is far easier to single out brands that are not being open and honest.
And why do we want this openness?
First of all, it builds trust. Honesty in the world of business is the same as it is in our personal lives. If someone withholds the truth, our opinion of them changes. If someone is honest, we can trust them. It’s that simple. And the same goes for brands.
Transparency also opens channels of communication. If a brand is willing to be transparent enough to hold their hand up and admit to a mistake, consumers relish it and will be more inclined to give a company the benefit of the doubt, especially when the brand is then seen to be making changes or amends.
As Bill Gates said: “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
This, in turn, can be fantastic word of mouth. People don’t only take to social media to single a brand out when they make mistakes: in today’s world, people share the good news and improvements too: that customer that called you out on something you did that they didn’t like could end up being one of your biggest champions if you right the wrongs and be transparent about it.
Of course, it is beneficial to understand what you customers want and how they see your business and that’s where we come in: we can give you deep consumer insight that will enable you to meet customer needs more effectively, so get in touch with The Monachie Project today.
And once you’ve done that? Get out there and put your business in the spotlight. Be open and transparent and give your customers a forum to express their input so they can help you.