Nutritional Labeling: Different Countries, Different Approaches

Shoppers around the world are taking a closer look at food and drink than ever before. They’re just as interested in what’s on the outside of a pack as what’s inside. The nutritional information, whether it’s in the form of a basic table or an eye-catching graphic, has become a key factor in deciding which brand to buy.

Manufacturers who once relied on name recognition and slick packaging to move product have had to rethink, and look at developing healthier versions. Simply calling a brand “healthy” is no longer enough. Today, you need to show it as well. 

Potentially harmful levels of unhealthy ingredients are a global problem and different countries have taken different approaches to labelling: from the traffic light system which is familiar to British shoppers to the recently launched Nutri-Score in Europe. Despite their differences, they serve the same purpose. To let consumers make an informed decision quickly.

The other important thing all of these labelling systems have in common is that they all focus on the ‘Big Three’ factors which carry a health risk – sodium, sugar and saturated Fats.

Let’s make a closer look at some of these labels from around the world, and see the approach each one has taken.

Traffic Lights

In the UK, the government have taken a colourful approach to nutrition labels by using traffic lights to convey nutritional information.

This means you can tell at a glance whether a product is high (red) , medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt

This has proven especially effective in telling consumers all they need to know about a product at a glance. And if they want more detail, there are percentages of the Recommended Daily Intake.

If a product has at least one red light, a consumer will see this as a “red flag”, indicating that the manufacturer may want to consider reformulating.


Several European countries have their own nutrition labelling, for example Nutrinform in Italy, which also uses a traffic light approach, and Keyhole in Sweden, a logo that can be used on products meeting set criteria.

But the one gaining popularity in the EU is Nutri-Score, which is already officially recommended by health authorities in France, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Nutri-Score converts the nutritional value of products into a simple code consisting of five numbers, each with its own colour.

And to make sure no product gets left behind, the digitally-savvy consumer can download an app which allows them to scan bar codes of products and instantly get its score.

FDA Tables

In the US, the labelling might be less eye-catching than others shown here, but it’s just as informative. Using a simple table, it spells out the nutritional content of the “Big Three”  (sodium, sugar and saturated fat) that can affect our weight and blood pressure, contributing to the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

These labels have been recently redesigned, with the aim of making communication as clear as possible – with bolder, larger type, the inclusion of added sugar and revised percentage of DV (daily values.) The latter is an excellent tool, as it shows how much of each nutrient are in a serving of food.

This allows consumers to make sure, for example, that they keep their intake of sodium to under 100% of the daily value. As a general guide: 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high.

And the trend for clear nutritional information in the US is spreading to restaurants. Chains in New York and Philadelphia are now required to use a “saltshaker” icon beside any item containing 2300 mg of Sodium or more.

Across the Southern border, Mexico has replaced their daily guideline tables with a series of black octagon “STOP” signs, each with a warning such as ‘EXCESS SODIUM’, ‘EXCESS SUGAR’ and so on. 

Meanwhile, across the Northern border, in Canada, a consultation is currently taking place over which front-of-package warning symbol to adopt. There are several options being considered, with the chosen design targeted for implementation in December 2022, in line with new amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations, expected in Fall 2021.

Health Stars

Go into any supermarket across Australia and New Zealand, from Wagga Wagga to Wellington and you’ll more than likely be seeing stars.

That’s because a product’s nutritional information is presented on the label in a simple star system, with half a star for something with virtually no nutritional value, all the way up to five stars for the healthiest available.

These labels can already be found on many popular products, including own-label brands from leading supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.

Can you improve your rating?

In a word, yes. Let’s take salt as an example, because sodium reduction is a priority with health authorities  around the world.

We all know that high levels can be found in ready meals, processed meats and sauces. But it can also be found where you least expect it. Few would guess that everyday items like bread, cereals and biscuits can contain relatively high levels. Consumers are often surprised when they see how much there is, and this “label shock” can cause products to be put back on the shelf.

But what if there was a way to improve the score – whether it’s stars, traffic light, Nutri-score or a simple table – by reformulating a product so that it tasted exactly same, but had significantly lower salt levels?

That solution is Saltwell, an all-natural sea salt which ticks all the boxes for a healthier score. It tastes like regular salt, but with 35% less sodium, it can help to boost your product’s nutrition rating. And as a bonus, it contains a healthy level of potassium, an essential nutrient not found in everyday salt. Saltwell is the naturally healthy way to improve your pack appeal for the health-conscious consumer looking for clean label products.

To show the impact that Saltwell can have on a brand, using it allows a manufacturer to say that their product has reduced or less sodium, according to this table on the website. 

Interested in giving your product a clean label advantage? Get in touch to learn more about Saltwell or request a free sample for your business.