Aussie producer prints first labels with star rating

Muesli maker Monster Health Food Co is the first Aussie brand to add the Australian Department of Health’s controversial Health Star Rating to its packaging – scoring four out of five stars for its Berry and Free & Lo varieties.

The zipper-resealable flexible self-standing printed pouches are produced by Foster Packaging International from its Melbourne office. As well as its Australian operations it also has offices in South Africa and Kenya.

The Health Star Rating aims to signal to consumers the overall nutritional quality of a food, picking up on salt, fats, sugars, protein and fibre on the front of its packaging. The higher the rating, the better the nutritional balance.

Monster's Berry muesli: first to shelf with star rating

Monster’s Berry muesli: first to shelf with star rating

Brands have a two year window from July to voluntarily add the measure to their labels; the scheme will then be reassessed depending on how widespread it becomes.

Monster is first off the mark with two of its muesli packages sporting stars and remaining products to follow in the next 12 months, headed for Australian supermarkets and to Asia.

The company redesigned its packaging in 2013 through agency Asprey Creative, for which it picked up a silver worldwide Pentaward in the food: cereals category.

Asprey says the redesign resulted in a ranging increase of more than 50 per cent; Monster hopes the star rating will continue to increase its sales and distribution – particularly being the first off the block with the stars, which it says has been well received by retailers.

Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, has encouraged consumers to choose Monster in support of its labelling decision.

Moore says, “The Monster Health Food Company has stuck its neck out as the first adopter of the Health Star Rating system and we are asking our members and the public to consider supporting them by purchasing their muesli varieties with the Health Star Rating packaging.”

Trevor and Kim Lauman, owners of Monster Health Foods, promote their brand at shows and expos

Trevor and Kim Lauman, owners of Monster Health Foods

Trevor Lauman, co-owner of the muesli brand which is available in Coles and Woolworths as well as independent grocers, says he hopes introducing the star rating will inspire other companies to follow suit.

Lauman says, “The Health Star Rating is about delivering honesty and transparency to consumers about products, so we wholeheartedly support it. We believe the system also comes at a time where consumers are more conscious about their food choices, and more sceptical of health claims.

“The Health Star Rating will provide an honest snapshot of what is contained within each product. Consumers deserve to have the food they are eating classified in an easy-to-understand way.”

Monster managed to assess its products in February with the government’s health star calculator in the few hours before the system was pulled by Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash and her chief of staff Alastair Furnival – who were later found to have links to the junk food industry.

The website explaining the Health Star Rating system is yet to be reinstated, and the graphic style guide is still in development – meaning Monster may have to alter its labels again in future.

Big brands and lobby groups have criticised the star scheme as costly, unscientific and misleading; questioning whether the benefits outweigh the expense. The Australian Food and Grocery Council in February said the labelling system would cost food manufacturers up to $14,000 a product, and $200m industry-wide to implement.

Asprey Creative wins a silver 2013 Pentaward for its Monster redesign

Asprey Creative wins a silver 2013 Pentaward for its Monster redesign

However, Monster says the cost to redesign and print all seven of its variant labels amounted to $2000 for artwork and $2000 for print, which it expects to make up for in sales.

Husband and wife team Kim and Trevor Lauman have run the family company for more than 20 years from their Sydney factory. They say they have not made changes to their recipes to achieve higher ratings, with the seven varieties rated between 3.5 to five stars.

Lauman says, “We have been honest and transparent about our products for 21 years. Today we draw a line in the sand for the Australian food industry. We hope companies big and small follow our lead.”

Consumer watchdog Choice, which was involved in developing the rating system, is calling for the Heath Star website to be restored so the scheme’s roll-out can continue.

Angela Cartwright, campaigns manager with Choice, says, “It’s great to see a local company stepping up and rolling out the ratings, particularly when we’ve heard so much noise from the big end of town about the difficulties with implementing the scheme.”

Monster says it takes a +1,-1 approach to its packaging - meaning it focuses on finding ways to reuse packages to reduce their impact

Monster says it takes a +1,-1 approach to its packaging; it focuses on finding ways to reuse packages to reduce their impact

Moore adds that new versions of the star graphic are currently being examined. He says it is vital that the style guide and websites be completed so more companies can access the Health Star Rating calculator and implement the right design features.

Moore says, “The Monster Health Food Company has chosen to proceed in the absence of these tools, but we would like to see appropriate support provided to ensure effective uptake by other companies.

“We expect it will be only a short time before many products on the supermarket shelves will be sporting the Health Star Ratings and consumers will have a key indicator to facilitate their choice of healthier options.”


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