Nutritics Blog

< back

Calorie Menu Labelling

Businesses who provide calorie information have a competitive advantage, and can increase revenue by 3% by improving customer loyalty and minimising food waste.
10th May 2018
Calorie Menu Labeling, CML, Food Labeling US, Menu Labeling US

While Calorie Menu Labelling is still a relatively new concept, there is evidence to show that the initiative has a positive impact on consumers’ purchases in food service outlets such as restaurants and cafeterias (1). Furthermore, research shows that businesses who provide calorie information have a competitive advantage over their competition, and can increase revenue by 3% by improving customer loyalty and minimising food waste (2). Displaying calories on menus gives smaller portions new appeal, which means businesses can serve more with less, and lets consumers know you have their best interests at heart. 

Read on to learn the background around Calorie Menu Labelling, why it has been introduced, and how you can implement it in your business using Nutritics.

Public Health Initiatives - We just can't get enough

Obesity is a major public health concern globally. Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. 

In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight, of these over 650 million were obese. That is 52% of adults aged 18 years and over were either overweight or obese in 2016 (3)(4)(5)! 

We have gotten to the point where overweight and obesity is more common than being a healthy weight. This is a worrying fact of modern life. 

Overweight and obesity is complex. Everyone has an argument or a cause that they feel is to blame, but it’s not that simple. A network of factors (6) contribute to the problem of being overweight or obese. Each individual is different and has travelled down a different path to becoming overweight or obese. However, it is generally accepted that the fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. 

Globally, there has been: 
  • an increased availability and intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugar
  • a decrease in physical activity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization. 

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education (3). 

Being overweight or obese has many consequences. It is associated with poor health, disease and death. Because so many factors contribute to obesity (6), we need a multiplicity of diverse interventions aimed at addressing each contributing area. 

The food and drink we consume gives us our ‘calories in’. Most people rely on eating out for at least one if not two meals a day. Without information about what is being eaten, it is almost impossible to know how many calories are being consumed in a sitting. Providing calorie information on food served outside of the home is one initiative that can support those who are trying to manage their weight. 

Providing calorie information on menus is a useful tool, equipping the public with information to support informed food choice, so let’s take a look at where we are now… 

America - The founding father of calorie labelling

In an effort to address the contribution of food consumed outside of the home to the overweight and obesity epidemic, several states, cities and counties have passed menu labelling laws. It all started with New York City in 2006 when city law required restaurants with 15 or more locations to list calorie information for each item on the menu. Calorie information had to be posted in a prominent location (both on menu boards and menus). This was enforced in 2008 and shortly thereafter, in 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which included a national menu labelling law for all restaurants with 20 or more locations (7). This requirement came into force on the 7th of May 2018. 

Australia were quick to get on board with energy labelling of foods bought for consumption outside of the home. They are the only country to use the term kilojoules instead of kilocalories. Kilojoule is a more scientific term for the energy we get from our food. In Australia in 2011, under the New South Wales menu labelling scheme, it became mandatory for certain food businesses to display kilojoule information at points of food choice. 

Europe followed shortly after. In Ireland, out of home calorie labelling has been a voluntary public health initiative since 2012. In this year, a national public consultation revealed overwhelming strong consumer demand for calorie information on food bought for consumption outside the home (8). In Northern Ireland, the caloriewise initiative has been running since 2013 and has demonstrated benefits for both businesses and consumers. 

In 2015, the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) released a policy statement on calorie posting. In this statement it was announced that a calorie posting policy would be developed across HSE facilities employing over 100,00 staff as part of a national framework to improve health and wellbeing among the people of Ireland. 

The UK introduced voluntary calorie labelling as part of a 2012 Public Health Responsibility Deal. Over 40 businesses, representing over 9500 outlets signed up to provide calorie information on food prepared to be eaten out of the home. More recently, in 2018, the UK public health body. Public Health England have launched a campaign to reduce calories in foods by 20% by 2024. 

In 2014, Public Health bodies in Denmark strongly recommended pursuing calorie labelling suggesting that the positive effects shown elsewhere would be even more profound in the Danish population, who demand healthier fast foods. The Danish population’s food choices are primarily determined by the appeal of convenience, suggesting that they are more likely to use calorie information to choose lower energy options, when they are available, easily identifiable and particularly if they are the default option. 

In Canada, as part of the Healthy Menu Choices Act, as of January 1, 2017, all food-service chains with 20 or more locations in Ontario must post the number of calories in the food and drink items they sell.

OK I'm convinced! - How do I start?

Calorie labelling should be implemented according to best practice to increase efficacy. 

While interpretation differs slightly between countries, there are common principles that are consistent and have been shown to support informed choice: 
  • Display calorie information consistently for all menu items at the point of choice – usually beside the price of the food item. 
  • Display calories per portion of food or for a whole meal, reflecting what is expected to be consumed – no one wants to get out a calculator when ordering food. 
  • Display contextual calorie information to inform people about the number of calories it is recommended to eat in a day.

Nutritics is here to help

Calculating the calorie value of your menu items might seem daunting at first, but with help from Nutritics you can determine accurate calorie values for your dishes quickly and easily. 

With Nutritics, you can simply create your own recipes using our extensive database of foods from international databases, including America, Australia, and UK to name a few. 

Nutritics will then automatically calculate a full nutrient profile for your recipe based on the ingredients, quantities and cooking methods used. It’s that simple! 

What’s more, Nutritics will also provide you with suggestions on how to improve the nutritional profile of your recipes and products, making it easier for you to provide your customers with the healthier options they desire. 

Nutritics provides flexible plan options so there is something to suit every business no matter how big or small. Our software is simple to use and we have a wide range of training resources and a dedicated support team to help get you up and running. 

Why not sign up for a free trial today to see how easy it is to calculate those calories! 


References
1. Bleich SN, Economos CD, Spiker ML, Vercammen KA, VanEpps EM, Block JP, et al. A Systematic Review of Calorie Labeling and Modified Calorie Labeling Interventions: Impact on Consumer and Restaurant Behavior. Obesity. 2017;25(12):2018–44.  
2. Bollinger BB, Leslie P, Sorensen A. Calorie Posting in Chain Restaurants. Am Econ J Econ Policy. 2011;3:91–128.  
3. WHO | Obesity and overweight. WHO [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2018 Feb 20]; Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/   
4. Kelly MT, Wallace JMW, Robson PJ, Rennie KL, Welch RW, Hannon-Fletcher MP, et al. Increased portion size leads to a sustained increase in energy intake over 4 d in normal-weight and overweight men and women. Bristish J Nutr. 2008;102:470–7.   
5. Safe Food. The cost of overweight and obesity on the Island of Ireland The cost of overweight and obesity on the island of Ireland- Executive Summary [Internet]. 2012. Available from: http://www.safefood.eu/SafeFood/media/SafeFoodLibrary/Documents/Publications/Research Reports/Final-Exec-Summary-The-Economic-Cost-of-Obesity.pdf   
6. Obesity System Influence Diagram [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 20]. Available from: http://www.shiftn.com/obesity/Full-Map.html   
7. Nestle M. Health Care Reform in Action — Calorie Labeling Goes National. N Engl J Med. 2010;362(25):2343–5.   
8. Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Calories on menus in Ireland - Report on a National Consultation on Putting Calories on Menus. 2012.

You're in good company