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Product criteria annexes updated

July 14th, 2012

The Choices International Foundation has released an updated version of its product criteria, which relates only to the annexes, as the factual per-product group criteria remain unchanged.

The updated version includes a change in the consideration of polyols, which were initially treated in the same way as added sugars.

The update – which aligns the wording of the definitions more with existing guidelines – was also made to improve understanding of the nutrient definitions among participants. All changes have been incorporated in the document product criteria version 2.3.

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Czech Republic celebrates first anniversary

May 15th, 2012

Interview with Katerina Slunecková (Vím, co jím (VCJ) Programme Manager)

When did you begin working with Choices?

I first heard about the Choices Programme when I was living in Belgium for a year with my husband. He showed me the Choices stamp on many different products, and that really sparked my interest. We returned to the Czech Republic, and I began working for the Programme here as of July 2011.

What is the role of the VCJ Programme in Czech health policies?

In recent years, obesity levels in the Czech Republic have been steadily increasing – and in particular among children. The cause is very often poor food choices and bad eating habits. VJC's aim is to actively engage consumers in health related issues, so that they not only try to get regular exercise, but also focus more on the quality of the food they consume and aim for a more nutritionally balanced diet. We would like to start from an early age, by participating in educational programmes for schools and pre-schools. We would also like to highlight the benefits of Programme participation to food producers, so that they want to join and reformulate their products according to the Programme criteria. This would not only enable more nutritionally balanced options to be made available to consumers, but also a wider range of healthy imported food.

Do you feel connected with the international dimension of the Choices Programme?

Definitely! Especially as this year we've managed to deepen our cooperation with the Choices International Foundation secretariat in Brussels, as well as with Pavel Telička, the Chairman of Choices – who we're proud to say is also Czech!

How would you like to see the Czech Programme develop and why?

In the near future, we would like to begin cooperating with a multinational retail chain. We would also like to increase the number of food producers participating in Choices in the Czech Republic so that we can expand the range of products that carry the VJC logo. By doing so, our aim is to cover all the products that an ordinary consumer puts into his or her shopping basket!

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Choices logo gives impetus to product innovation

May 11th, 2012

Amsterdam, 19 April 2012 – The Dutch Choices logo has a major impact on healthy food innovation in The Netherlands. This is the major conclusion highlighted in the PhD-thesis of Ellis Kroonenberg-Vyth, which she will publicly defend today. Her thesis analyses the effectiveness of the logo on consumer behaviour, product development, and public health.

It demonstrates how the Dutch Choices logo has been encouraging food industry to reduce the saturated fat, added sugars and salt content of their products. For instance, food producers have managed to lower the salt content of processed meat by 18% and by 13% for soups. Ms. Kroonenberg-Vyth concludes that the optimal health gain achieved through logos occurs when producers are continually encouraged to offer healthier options. Indeed, in this way, both consumers with an interest in healthy food, as well as those with less of an interest, can benefit.

Awareness for the logo
Ms. Kroonenberg-Vyth’s study also demonstrates that consumer awareness of the logo in The Netherlands is high. Indeed, data reveals that approximately 90% of consumers recognise the logo when they see it. Additional consumer research performed by the Dutch Choices Foundation shows that 87% of consumers search for healthier options and that 67% occasionally or often buy products bearing a logo. A major observation from the supermarket studies is that it is especially those consumers with an interest in health that use the Choices logo.

The challenge therefore is to increase public interest in healthy food. ‘This not only represents a challenge for our foundation, but also for governments, the private sector and many other stakeholders’, says Clémence Ross, president of the Dutch Choices foundation. ‘We know that consumer behaviour is difficult to change, and that success in promoting healthy food choices not only involves a logo, but other factors such as product positioning on supermarket shelves and pricing. A front-of-pack logo like Choices cannot do this by itself.’

The foundation is pleased to see that producers are reformulating their products in order to be able to carry the logo. Innovation which achieves a greater food proposition is one of the major aims of the Choices logo. With this logic, even those consumers who do not have an active interest in healthy food are more likely to buy healthier products. This can only have a beneficial impact on public health, as Ms. Kroonenberg-Vyth’s research demonstrates that a Choices-compliant diet can theoretically help decrease blood cholesterol levels.

Methodology
Ms. Kroonenberg-Vyth investigated the content of 400 shopping carts of consumers in nine supermarkets and collected financial sales data from 25 company restaurants. Additionally, she collaborated with 47 producers and calculated health gains in cooperation with the Dutch National Institute for Public health and the Environment (RIVM).

Reference
Evaluation of a front of pack nutritional label. Effects on consumer behavior, product development and public health. Ellis Kroonenberg-Vyth, April 2012. ISBN 978-90-6464-536-5.

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