Kraft Foods, the world's biggest food company, has announced its US operation is to provide consumers with more nutritional information about its products - a precedent already set by its UK division, Tom Armitage reports.
Using nutrition criteria derived from various sources, including the proposed 2005 US Dietary Guidelines and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kraft Foods will introduce a Sensible Solution labelling programme in the US, allowing it to flag up products which qualify either as providing beneficial nutrients (protein, calcium or fibre for instance), or meet the requirements for products with reduced calorie, fat, saturated fat, sugar, or sodium content.
In September 2004 Kraft's UK division pledged that it would work more closely with government health policy makers in an attempt to tackle the growing problem of obesity and dietary-related health problems, following recommendations by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) that food manufacturers should provide more comprehensive nutritional information on their products.
Prior to the UK labelling decision, however, Kraft had already opted to display nutritional information for the so-called big four key nutrients - referring to fat, calorie, carbohydrate and protein content - on its products, which include leading soft white cheese brand Philadelphia and its self-styled power brand, Dairylea processed cheese.
As of September 2004, the company will introduce further labelling to express the quantity of sodium contained in its products in salt equivalent, as well as reviewing and reducing the number of products which contain excessive levels of sodium, calories, sugar and fat.
But the US nutrition initiative, slated for introduction in April this year, will not be as comprehensive as that of its UK counterpart, as the campaign primarily aims to "increase the visibility" of some of the company's more nutritious products.
A spokesperson for Kraft said: "Kraft provides basic nutritional labelling for all its products, regardless of the legislative practices of individual countries. Some countries, however, require more detail than others."
The United States legislature currently requires all food and drink manufacturers to display basic nutritional information on their products, although Kraft suggests that "consumers are demanding more simple and meaningful labelling on their packaging. Rather than each consumer having to study each pack for its nutritional content, we do the maths for them."
Among the company's first products to carry the Sensible Solution flag in the US will be its Kraft 2 per cent Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Cheese, Kraft Singles, Post Shredded Wheat cereal, Minute Rice Instant whole grain brown rice, Triscuit Original baked whole grain wheat crackers and the light or free versions of its Philadelphia soft white cheese.
"We're working on ways to encourage both adults and children to eat wisely by selecting more nutritionally balanced diets," commented Lance Friedmann, Kraft's senior vice-president for global health and wellness.
According to industry analysts Euromonitor International , Kraft is currently the market leader for branded cheese products in the US, with its Kraft, Kraft Singles and Philadelphia products notching up an estimated 25 per cent of total sales in 2003.