Green light for sim­ple food la­belling

Colour-cod­ing helps you count the kilo­joules

Finweek English Edition - - Cover - FRIK ELS

PI­ETER ROS­SOUW, co-founder of The Health Ro­bot, says af­ter three years of lay­ing the foun­da­tion, the com­pany’s prod­uct will soon hit the mar­ket. “It’s been a ques­tion of build­ing trust and es­tab­lish­ing our cred­i­bil­ity – as is the case with most in­no­va­tive ideas, there’s a nat­u­ral re­sis­tance from com­pa­nies to be the first to take the plunge. Now that we have let­ters of in­tent from ma­jor re­tail­ers and food man­u­fac­tur­ers, it’s a go.”

The Health Ro­bot pro­vides at-a-glance nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion – in­clud­ing fat, sugar, fi­bre and sodium lev­els and kilo­joule counts – on food pack­ag­ing. Green means eat freely, orange, eat mod­er­ately and red, eat cau­tiously. “In places like SA, where lit­er­acy, com­bined with un­dernour­ish­ment and obe­sity, re­mains a prob­lem, easy-toun­der­stand nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion is key,” says Ros­souw.

Ini­tial fund­ing for the prod­uct was a stroke of luck, he says. In a meet­ing with law firm, Izak Min­nie Inc, about patents and trade­marks, Min­nie was so im­pressed with the idea that he be­came the ma­jor in­vestor. “The past three years have been a tough slog,” says Ros­souw. “Co-founder Bruce Walker and I lit­er­ally talked to ev­ery­one in the in­dus­try. Ini­tially our ‘an­gle’ to get the food com­pa­nies on board was more one of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, of do­ing the right thing by help­ing South Africans to eat more healthily. Al­though ed­u­ca­tion and health aware­ness are an im­por­tant part of our sys­tem, it was a mis­take to sell our prod­uct in this way.”

Ros­souw changed course af­ter con­sult­ing one of SA’s top brand strate­gists, and says his big­gest mis­take was not hav­ing done this sooner. “I could have cut de­vel­op­ment time in half. The break­through came when we started con­cen­trat­ing on the mar­ket­ing ben­e­fits of traf­fic-light food la­belling for su­per­mar­ket chains and food man­u­fac­tur­ers.”

The UK, with the back­ing of its Food Stan­dards Author­ity, has adopted a sim­i­lar sys­tem, and al­ready big su­per­mar­ket chains such as Sains­bury’s, with num­ber two re­tailer Asda to fol­low later this year, and food com­pa­nies like McCain, are pro­mot­ing their prod­ucts in this way. “Given the ex­pe­ri­ence in Bri­tain, we can now go to lo­cal com­pa­nies with con­crete sales and mar­ket­ing data.” Once in­tro­duced, con­sumers read­ily switched to the health­ier ver­sions. Sales of the un­healthy or ‘in­dul­gent’ prod­uct fell by 40%, but the healthy op­tion shot up 140%.

The Health Ro­bot’s sci­en­tific ad­vis­ers in­clude the head of Hu­man Nu­tri­tion at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, the chief spe­cial­ist in Chronic Dis­eases of Lifestyle at the Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil and var­i­ous other ex­perts. Two di­eti­cians also serve on its board.

The Health Ro­bot charges a li­cence fee of 0,1% of turnover up to a max­i­mum of R500 000 per brand. The Health Ro­bot will spend 75% of this in­come on ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes at schools, among oth­ers. “We’re tar­get­ing R15m-R18m this year, with pro­jected growth of roughly dou­ble that in the fu­ture.

Pi­eter Ros­souw

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.