Less than two years after it first started being implemented on a voluntary basis in Australia, the Health Star Rating system is gradually taking over on both sides of the Tasman, sweeping away other front-of-pack labelling schemes. ‘The more stars, the healthier the choice’ is the HSR’s philosophy and strength, which provides a much quicker way to compare similar products on their overall nutritional profiles and know exactly what you are buying. Rating products from half a star to five stars, it helps busy shoppers identify at a glance foods that are higher in positive nutrients and lower in risk nutrients, leading to better health.

According to Katherine Rich, chief executive of FGC, the number of SKUs with the HSR label in New Zealand is now approaching 2,000, nearly double the number of products displaying the Heart Foundation Tick logo, currently accounting for 1,000 items in 60 food categories.
“The update of the Health Star Rating in New Zealand has been excellent, and the FGC has been supporting the Ministry of Primary Industry in their national workshops to explain the system to companies,” said Rich.

An MPI spokesperson told SupermarketNews that, since its introduction, the response from businesses has been very positive. “A number of manufacturers have taken up the system and are rolling it out across their products. Health Stars are also encouraging manufacturers to make their foods healthier, and we know that a number of leading brand breakfast cereals have improved their products thanks to the HSR system.”
Several smaller businesses are working hard to join the programme, and many more have committed to having the stars displayed on their packaging for all new products. Even NZ main supermarket chains have jumped on board by taking up the HSR system across their private labels.

Foodstuffs started incorporating the stars onto its Pams and Budget product packaging from early 2015.
“To date approximately 21 percent of the 1,500 products in the Pams and Budget range have had the Health Star Rating added to the labelling,” said Antoinette Laird, head of external relations, Foodstuffs. “As one of the biggest food retailers in New Zealand, we are committed to ensuring customers have access to healthy eating initiatives and by adopting the HSR on our own brand products we believe we are playing our part in helping Kiwis make good nutritional choices.”

To better inform its customers, Countdown is currently supporting a national Health Promotion Agency’s campaign, with advertising being displaying in the cereal aisle at every Countdown store throughout New Zealand.
“We’re supporting of nutrition information that’s easy to understand and meaningful for our customers, which is why we voluntarily have the Health Star Rating on more than 200 of our own brand products already, including Homebrand, Select and Macro,” said Dave Chambers, managing director, Countdown.

The Health Star Rating’s success seems to a be a swan song for the long-time running Heart Foundation Tick, but Deb Sue, Tick manager, Heart Foundation, said the programme is not over yet, because Australia and NZ have different food landscapes.
“The New Zealand and Australian Tick Programmes are completely separate entities and, therefore, operate independently,” Sue told SupermarketNews.
“The Tick programme has been in the New Zealand market for over 25 years. During that time, the New Zealand Tick programme has evolved to meet the needs of the local market. This has included the introduction of Two Ticks in 2014 and reintroduction of a sugar criterion in 2015. Both these changes have been well received by consumers and the food industry.”