This instrument will facilitate the development and reformulation of more natural products
A collaborative project developed between researchers from the Hero Group, the University of Murcia (UMU) and the Federal Polytechnic School of Zürich (ETH), has made it possible to design an index to accurately measure and evaluate the degree of naturalness of food products, for which In the development, scientific, legal and technical information has been used, as well as information about consumer behavior extracted from studies and research carried out for this purpose.
The ‘Food Naturalness Index’, or FNI, stands for ‘Food Naturalness Index’, has been published in the journal with the greatest international impact in the area of food science and technology (Trends in Food Science & Technology ).
The FNI allows calculating the degree of naturalness of foods, which will help consumers to determine, in a simple and objective way, if the foods they buy are natural or not and will help to limit confusing claims on their labeling. . This is especially important today due to the abuses that are committed in the use of claims such as ‘natural’ or ‘100% natural’ in certain products.
The FNI is determined by calculating the average of the score given to the four main criteria taken into consideration when carrying out the assessment and which are: agricultural practices, such as conventional or organic; number of additives declared on the product label; number of unnecessary / unexpected ingredients and finally number of ingredients processed, use of minimal processing technologies and type of storage used (frozen, cold or ambient storage). Each of these criteria is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.
In the elaboration of this index, the results obtained as a result of a systematic review carried out on the perceptions of more than 85,000 consumers from 32 different countries, about the naturalness of foods, have played a fundamental role.
“Consumers choose their food on a daily basis and their opinion has been crucial when developing this index,” says Sergio Román, Professor of the Department of Marketing and Market Research at UMU, who has participated in the preparation of said study of perception.
The advantages and practical applications of the index are diverse and substantial. It will allow the industry to increase its transparency in the market and improve consumer confidence. For example, food manufacturers and retailers could use the FNI through a front label logo on the package which can ultimately lead to better consumer choices. In this sense, Luisma Sánchez-Siles, Director of Research and Nutrition of the Hero Group and principal investigator of the study, points out that “Hero is using the index to develop and reformulate its international product portfolio towards higher levels of naturalness”.
Likewise, given the existing legal vacuum around the use of the term ‘natural’ in food, the ETH professor, Michael Siegrist, points out that this index may be the starting point for authorities and political leaders to regulate the use of claims of ‘naturalness’ in a way that is more in line with consumer expectations, and may also enact food legislation more in line with those expectations.