2014 looks set to be both an exciting and challenging year with regards to food, drink and health. As the healthy eating, obesity and public health discussions continue to rumble, so do the scientific discussions around the effect that nutrients within food and drink have on our bodies.

Regardless of what happens this year, Wild Card has its finger on the pulse to ensure that you are kept up to date with all the new developments that may effect your brand’s marketing and communications.

We’ve therefore created an overview of the six main hot topics that will affect you and us in 2014. We’d be happy to talk to you about how you can best prepare for these and get your communications in order to ensure you’re able to navigate this tricky year in nutrition.


  • Food and health trends set to soar – taking a look at the trends that are set to be big in 2014
  • European Union labelling regulations – mandatory labelling comes into effect
  • Voluntary front-of-pack labelling – Reference Intakes and traffic lights on front-of-pack
  • New campaign group ‘Action on Sugar’ is created – the sugar industry and manufactures come under fire to reduce the sugar content in food
  • Public Health England brings in Smart Swaps – the government’s new public health initiative to promote healthy eating
  • Responsibility Deal gains momentum – government and industry continue to work together to promote public health

According to FoodBev.com, the key food and health trends that will be resonating well with consumers in 2014, include:

Functional food & drink – Functional drink sales are likely to accelerate significantly in 2014 on the back of strong NPD and a more mainstream positioning. Indeed, the global probiotics market is estimated to reach $44.9billion by 2018. As consumers look for functional benefit from their food and drink, how can brands communicate functionality in the face of claims regulation?

Naturally functional – This includes foods that naturally offer great health benefits e.g. yogurt. However, caution should be given over using the word natural on the product, as this can create a regulatory minefield.

Foods with a ‘health halo’ – Products that contain ‘naturally healthy’ ingredients position a product with a ‘health halo’ and this has been shown to increase sales – sometimes significantly. For example, coconut water, Canadian maple water and almond milk are all within the ‘health halo’ category and all are experiencing serious growth. Indeed, sales of coconut water in the US have surged from zero in 2007 to over $390million on the back of its strong ‘naturally healthy’ and ‘nothing added’ image.

Slow energy – Worldwide interest in products delivering ‘slow release’ or ‘sustained energy’ has increased sharply due to the global success of Belvita Breakfast Bars. However, this appears to be an early stage trend, with complex claims and a consumer message that is difficult to get right. However, product developers do appear to be increasingly considering slowly digestible carbohydrates such as oats, barley, sorghum and millet.

Weight Wellness – Weight management is no longer a special category of foods, highlighted by the fact that Slim-Fast’s sales are down by 80%. Consumers now think about weight as part of everyday food choices and as a way of maintaining wellness. Brands looking to capitalise on this shift in mindset will seemingly need to connect with consumers’ desire for an individualised approach to weight loss, based on normal foods.

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European Union labelling regulations

Whilst the UK is one of the leading countries for providing nutrition information on labels, not all European Countries are as thorough. In order to ensure that this information is available and consistent for all European countries, the EU has formed a new EU-wide regulation called the Food Information to Consumers (EU FIC). This regulation makes it mandatory for food companies and supermarkets to include certain information, displayed within a certain style, on their product packs. In summary, the information that will be mandatory on packaging includes the name of the food, ingredients list, allergen information, the quantity of certain ingredients, net quantity of the food, date mark, any special storage conditions, name and address of the food business operator, country of origin, instructions for use, alcoholic strength by volume and nutrition declaration. Key areas, in terms of nutrition, that are worth noting include:

Ingredient declaration – It is still necessary for ingredients to be listed in descending order but extra information may be required for some ingredients. For example ‘vegetable oil’ would now need to be extended to include the origin e.g. if the oil originated from palm oil, the label would have to specify ‘vegetable oil (palm)’.

Nutrition labelling – Under the new EU guidelines, ‘Back of Pack’ information will become mandatory on the majority of pre-packed foods and there will be only one permitted list of nutrients that can be displayed, in order to reflect the nutrients that are significant from a public health perspective. These are Energy (in kilojoules and kilocalories), Fat (of which saturates), Carbohydrates (of which sugars), Protein and Salt. It is no longer a requirement to label sodium. Other specified nutrients that may be labelled voluntarily are mono-saturates, polyunsaturates, polyols, fibre and vitamins and minerals. However, if a nutrition claim is being made about any of these nutrients, it becomes mandatory to label the amount. Information must be given per 100g but they may also be given per typical serving too.

Reference Intakes to replace Guideline Daily Amounts – Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) must now be referred to as Reference Intakes (RIs). RIs are a guide to the maximum amount of energy and nutrients needed and whilst everyone has different needs, there is just one set of values: Energy (Kcal): 2000, Energy (KJ): 8400, Total Fat (g): 70, Saturated Fat (g): 20g, Carbohydrate (g): 260, Sugar (g): 90, Protein (g): 50, Salt (g): 6. RIs are displayed as a percentage and represent the maximum daily intake a portion of food accounts towards your RI.

Many of the changes stipulated by the EU FIC need to be made by December 2014 but changes to the nutrition labelling do not have to be implemented until December 2016 UNLESS manufactures are already providing front-of-pack information, in which case they will have to comply with the EU regulation by end of 2014.

These EU FIC regulations will increase transparency within food labelling and will make it harder for brands to not stipulate certain ingredients or nutrients on their packs. This will increase consumer awareness and may prompt consumer questions about the food product in question.

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Previously, food and drink labels within the UK were renowned for differing in the range of nutritional information they provided. Indeed, research showed that consumers found these conflicting messages confusing, buy diflucan over the counter which has important implications on consumer choice as food labels are an essential tool in helping consumers make informed decisions about the food they buy.

It was encouraging therefore that in June 2013, following consultations with food businesses, NGOs and academics, the Department of Health released new voluntary guidelines for creating standardised front-of-pack labelling. Under this system a consistent traffic-light coding system is used on front of packaging to determine the nutritional value of food portions, in conjunction with the percentage contribution a typical serving makes to the Reference Intakes (RIs).

Despite being voluntary, this scheme has had a good uptake, with many high profile manufactures and supermarkets adopting the new front-of-pack labelling initiative. The fact that front-of-pack food labelling has now been made one of the pledges under the Public Health Responsibility Deal may also be a reason why companies have generally reacted positively to the scheme. Regardless of uptake, this voluntary, standardised scheme is going to enable consumers to make healthier choices, by comparing the same kinds of foods to see if there is a healthier option. This will likely have implications for brands that are ‘deemed healthy’ but in fact, for example, have high hidden sugar and fat content.

It is worth noting that any manufacture or supermarket that does wish to adopt this front-of-pack labelling scheme, will still have to comply with the new EU FIC labelling regulations.

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New campaign group Action on Sugar is created

Sugar continues to cause a stir and considerable press coverage in light of the growing conversations around the negative impact that sugar has on our health.

Public health experts are arguing that sugar, in particular hidden sugar, is not only fuelling the obesity epidemic (particularly in the developing world) but that growing evidence is showing that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver.

Whilst the government has recognised these fears by including a sugar and calorie reduction pledge within the Responsibility Deal, it has been argued that it is not working and has had little effect on calorie intake. In light of this, on 9th January 2014, the campaign group Action on Sugar was created and aims to do what Consensus Action on Salt and Health did for salt levels in our food. Indeed, they are hoping for a 20-30% reduction in sugar levels within our food, over a three to five year period.

The Department of Health has argued, however, that the Responsibility Deal is working, with big brands such as Coco-Cola reducing the calorie content in some of its soft drinks by 30%.

Clearly some clarity is needed and hence findings revealed on 27th February 2014 from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s report on the impact of dietary carbohydrates on health, continues to be eagerly anticipated. If the outcome of this meeting results in changes to public health recommendations then this will likely have implications on legislation and public opinion, especially as the government is already considering legislating sugar-laden products by placing a 20% tax on products such as fizzy drinks and chocolate.

It is worth noting that The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) is an advisory committee of independent experts that provides advice to Public Health England as well as other government agencies and departments. SACN is requested by the Food Standards Agency and Department of Health to provide clarification of the relationship between dietary carbohydrate and health and from this make public health recommendations. However, this in itself has caused controversy as a recent Dispatches programme highlighted the fact that a few of the experts from SACN receive funding from the confectionery giants. This is not new news however, as the SACN had fully declared these associations.

Sugar, therefore looks like it will be remaining in the headlines and of high priority to consumers and manufacturers alike especially in light of improved nutritional labelling, potential changes to public health recommendations as well as considerations being given to taxing sugar-laden products.

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Public Health England brings in Smart Swaps scheme, through Change4Life initiative

Change4Life is a government initiative that has become one of the most recognisable brands in health improvement. The campaign’s ambition is to create a movement in which everyone in society plays their part, helping to create fundamental changes to those behaviors that can help people lead healthier lives.

Their latest scheme, Smart Swaps, was launched this month and aims to encourage and support families to make one easy and healthy swap to their everyday food and drinks in order to lower the sugar and saturated fat content of their diet. Encouragement comes in the form of a free pack that contains healthier food and drink swaps and meal ideas, money-off vouchers, fridge magnets and ongoing support emails and texts. Swap suggestions include choosing sugar free cereals instead of sugary ones and changing full fat milk to lower fat alternatives.

Change4Life launched a similar scheme to this in 2011 so it will be interesting to monitor the pick up from this latest campaign. If well supported, this scheme will impact brands that fall into the ‘unhealthy category’, particularly if consumers are more able to distinguish products with high sugar and saturated fat content in light of brands being encouraged to adopt the standardised ‘front of pack labelling’.

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Responsibility Deal gains momentum

The governments Public Health Responsibility Deal aims to work with industry and influential organisations to improve the nation’s health. Currently, reducing saturated fat content within the diet is one of the leading dietary recommendations given by NICE for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. In light of this, the latest responsibility deal pledge, launched in October 2013, aims to help consumers reduce their saturated fat intake from 12.7% of their food energy to 11%. Achieving this will help save approximately 2,600 individuals dying prematurely from coronary heart disease each year.

Almost half of the food manufacturing and retail industry has signed up to the Responsibility Deal Saturated Fat Reduction Pledge by agreeing to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their products or/and to reformulate their products to contain less saturated fat. It is hoped that throughout 2014 and beyond more than one and half Olympic size swimming pools of saturated fat will be removed from the nation’s diet.

Concern has been raised, however, over whether manufactures will replace the saturated content with sugar or unsaturated fat to ensure that the taste of their product is not affected. Obviously this would have a detrimental effect on health too.

It will be interesting to see whether the other half of the food manufacturing and retail industry will also be tempted to sign up to the pledge.

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