CHOICE comparison finds few stars among food giant's stellar sellers
26 February 2014
CHOICE has used the recently released Health Star Rating Calculator to compare a selection of supermarket favourites, finding few stars among the offerings from food giant Mondelez, the parent company of Kraft, Cadbury, Nabisco and Oreo.
While the full information needed to calculate the stars is only available to the manufacturer,1 CHOICE says Health Star Ratings based on the available information show some of the company's big sellers are not so stellar when it comes to nutrition.
"CHOICE did three product comparisons and found the Health Stars shot down the Mondelez product each time," says CHOICE Campaigns Manager Angela Cartwright.
"We looked at two string cheese products popular in the playground and found the Mondelez product scored a paltry two stars. In contrast, Bega's Stringers got a whopping four and a half stars.
"CHOICE calculated star ratings for another lunchbox favourite, peanut butter, which you might assume wouldn't vary too much. However, we found a real star in Sanitarium's natural peanut butter which scored five stars, well ahead of Mondelez's Kraft peanut butter with 3 stars."2
"Perhaps the biggest surprise for us was the cracker star-off, with Mondelez-owned Ritz bottoming out at half a star while Arnotts' Jatz managed 2 stars."
||Health Star Rating*
| Bega Stringers Cheestrings
| Kraft StripCheese (Mondelez-owned)
| Sanitarium Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter
| Kraft Crunchy Peanut Butter (Mondelez-owned)**
| Arnotts Jatz Original
| Nabisco Ritz Crackers (Mondelez-owned)
||½ a star
*Ratings calculated by CHOICE using the Health Star Rating calculator
**Rating based on CHOICE's estimate of fibre content of Kraft Peanut Butter as label does not declare fibre
"CHOICE decided to take a closer look at Mondelez after the company attempted to discredit the Health Star Rating Scheme, claiming the scheme was 'ill-founded, unscientific and confusing', when in fact it was considerably informed by market research showing strong support for it.3
"By providing a star rating, the new scheme will give consumers information they can use to make healthier choices at-a-glance. CHOICE questions whether the real reason Mondelez doesn't like the system is that it would show consumers that some of their products are less healthy than the alternatives?
"CHOICE knows there are companies out there that want to roll out the Health Star Rating Scheme and it's time for the food industry to get behind this system.
"Our health star snapshot shows that it is possible to have considerably healthier versions of the same type of product. CHOICE thinks the Scheme will not only give consumers information they can use at-a-glance but spur companies to improve their product offerings, creating a healthier food supply in the long term."
CHOICE used the Health Star Rating Calculator to determine the number of stars for products. The calculator was developed with significant input from the food industry and has been refined to ensure the nasties like saturated fat, sugar and sodium are accounted for while awarding extra points for fibre, protein and the presence of fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes in the ingredients.
At a broader level, the food industry has actively participated in developing the labelling approach. The committee that developed the Health Star Rating Scheme comprised representatives from the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Australian National Retailers Association, Australian Beverages Council and Australian Industry Group.
- The Health Star Rating Calculator uses the amount of energy, saturated fat, sugar, sodium and protein which must be listed on food products. It also considers information which is not always declared on products, namely fibre content and the percentage of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes in the ingredients.
- CHOICE calculated the star rating for the Kraft product using an estimate of the dietary fibre content because Kraft does not disclose the fibre content on-pack. CHOICE estimated the dietary fibre of the Kraft peanut butter at 6g which is 85% of the fibre in the Sanitarium product, on the basis the fibre is from the peanuts which account for 85% of the Kraft product and 100% of the Sanitarium product.
- Mondelez spokesman Simon Talbot referred to the Health Star Rating as "ill-founded, unscientific and confusing": Sean Parnell "Label talk - food rating system may be doomed" The Australian 14 February 2014.