Portion sizes for packaged foods are a focus area for the food industry as healthier eating and anti obesity strategies are looking to help people rebalance energy intake and expenditure. Some nutritional labelling schemes, such as guidance daily amounts (GDAs) are based on portion size.
The decision was endorsed by the ESA board, said Dr Sabine Seggelke, public affairs & policy director for the association, following a period of multi-stakeholder consultation.
“As portions are a key determinant of consumers’ intake of calories and other nutrients we take stakeholders’ concerns about portion sizes seriously. Providing nutrition information on a per portion basis empowers consumers to choose a healthy, balanced diet,” she maintains.
And Seggelke said that a per portion basis of 30 g for snacks is grounded in robust scientific evidence, and takes into account societal trends in public health.
According to the ESA public affairs spokesperson, there has been a lack of consistency in terms of snack portion size throughout the bloc, making it difficult for consumers, up until this amendment, to have meaningful, practical and easily understood data on nutritional benefits per portion:
“Research data generated by one of our members distinguished between in home and out of home consumption, and indicates that snack serving size currently range between 26g to 34 g in the bloc with 26 g in the Netherlands, 28 g in the UK and 34 g in Spain.”
Despite the slight increase in weight, the portion is still in line with dietary recommendations for a snack in between meals of 28-30 g per day, continued Seggelke.
She said that all ESA members have pledged to phase in the new packaging sizes over the coming months. “The switch, of course, could not be implemented across all ranges immediately as this would result in a significant amount of packaging waste, an outcome beneficial to no one. Instead, manufacturers, when releasing new snack lines, will do so in 30g portions.”
As part of the ESA’s role in the European Commission platform on food labelling, it is required to monitor progress in member’s initiatives on an annual basis, with Seggelke telling BakeryandSnacks.com that January 2011 would provide a clearer picture of its membership’s progress on the portion size project.
She added that the savoury snacks industry supports the use of GDAs on-pack as the most useful way of providing consumers with clear and simple nutrition information that they need in order to be able to make an informed choice.
Meanwhile, an IGD report last year found that consumers do not trust portion sizes given on food packages and buy extra to ensure they have enough to eat, and the publication argued that industry needs to communicate better the basis of portion sizes.
The report was based on consumer research undertaken in focus groups, and through a quantitative survey of 1,067 adults aged 15 and over in April 2009.
It showed that while consumers liked portion size information on packs, they use it as guidance in the loose sense and tend to purchase extra as they are unwilling to rely on the quantities suggested by manufacturers.
Thirty six per cent of respondents said they ignored the portion size information on the pack; 38 per cent said they will eat what they want regardless of what it says on the label.