22/07/2015 3 mins

No significant difference in the nutritional composition between best-value, own-brand and national-brand products

OQALI, jointly managed by ANSES and INRA, collects the nutritional information found on the packaging of processed foods. With over 35 000 items listed, almost all of the food industry sectors are now covered. Several reports have been published today, including a study characterising the nutritional quality of the food offer. The study found that “budget”-type products ("entry-level" and "hard-discount" own brands) do not appear to be of inferior nutritional quality. The study also shows that entry-level own brands provide a smaller range of products than the other market segments. Furthermore, own-brand products tend to provide a wider range of nutritional information on their packaging.

OQALI is the nutritional unit of the Food Observatory in charge of topics related to the food offer and food characteristics. It is jointly managed by ANSES and INRA, and is tasked with conducting overall monitoring of the food offer through the objective measurement of evolutions in nutritional quality.

Today, OQALI publishes the results of several studies, including one which aims to form an overall view of differences in nutritional in quality of the food offer between market segments..

A limited range of products for entry-level own brands

Among the products the study looked at (over 16 000 items collected between 2008 and 2011), entry-level own brands on the whole provided a narrower range of products than did the other market segments, such as national brands, own brands or hard discount. 

This means, for example, that there is a reduced choice of low-sugar products (i.e. fruit purées and jams), or premium products (i.e. delicatessen meats), and a smaller range of products in the "gourmand" food families of the sector (i.e. fresh dairy and related products).

More diversified nutritional information labelling for own brand products

With regard to the nutritional criteria found on packaging and studied by OQALI for all the products under consideration:

  • 90% provided nutritional labelling (in other words, information regarding the calories as well as levels of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and possibly fibre, sodium, saturated fats and sugars);
  • 62% provided detailed nutritional labelling (levels for all the above nutritional components);
  • 19% provided nutritional claims (message suggesting that a foodstuff has beneficial nutritional properties, for example: "no added sugar"); 
  • 3% provided a health claim (message suggesting a link between the foodstuff or one of its ingredients and a health benefit, for example: "calcium and bone growth"); 
  • 40% provided nutritional guidelines (recommended daily intakes representing, for example, the calories for a portion of the product for a given type of consumer); 
  • 64% provided portion indications (recommended consumer portion sizes);
  • 52% provided nutritional information per portion.

On the market segment level, for all sectors taken together:

  • own brands tended to provide the OQALI-studied nutritional criteria most frequently: nutritional labelling, detailed nutritional labelling, nutritional guidelines, portion indications and nutritional information per portion;
  • national brands set themselves apart with regard to claims, with the highest frequency of both nutritional and health claims;
  • entry-level own brands, with the lowest frequency of the nutritional criteria looked at, provided less nutritional information on the packaging of their products.

Nevertheless, when considering labelling for nutritional composition data (90% nutritional labelling and 62% detailled nutritional labelling), occasional ungeneralisable differences were found among the various market segments

Occasional nutritionally-insignificant differences in composition

In light of the available data, budget products ("entry level" and "hard discount" own brands) were not found to be of poorer nutritional quality than products from the other market segments.

Theoretical simulations looking at consumers loyal to a single market segment only, did indicate a tendency for budget products to provide lower levels of protein. But since protein intake in the French population surpasses dietary recommendations, consumption of budget products should not pose any risk of deficiency or insufficient intake by consumers.