A new study has ranked major Australian supermarkets according to the healthiness of their own-label foods.
The George Institute for Global Health, in collaboration with the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, carried out the study.
‘FoodSwitch: The State of the Food Supply’ analysed more than 32,000 packaged foods across Australia. It came up with some startling findings.
The researchers used the government-developed Health Star Rating (HSR) to rank the healthiness of processed items from 25 food manufacturers. These included Heinz, Kellogg’s and Nestlé, plus the major supermarkets’ own brands, which can account for about 30 per cent of all products in-store.
The HSR system assesses the overall nutritional profile of packaged foods. It assigns ratings from half a star to five stars as a standardised way to compare them. A food must have an HSR of at least 3.5 to qualify as ‘healthy’.
The researchers also drew on The George Institute’s FoodSwitch database. This contains nutritional information on more than 90,000 packaged food products.
Supermarket healthiness ranking
For supermarkets’ own-brand products, Woolworths came out on top, while IGA came last:
- Woolworths – average HSR 3.2
- Coles – 3.0
- Aldi – 2.7
- IGA – 2.6.
Only about two in five of IGA’s own-brand products had an HSR of 3.5 and above.
Aldi foods the most ‘ultra-processed’
The researchers found that almost half of all processed foods on supermarket shelves are discretionary foods. This means they’re not a necessary part of a person’s diet.
Aldi had the highest proportion of discretionary foods on its shelves – more than 50 per cent of its range.
Aldi’s own-brand products were also the most “ultra-processed”, according to the study. This refers to foods that usually combine many ingredients, such as sugar, oils, fats, salt, antioxidants, stabilisers and preservatives, which have also been significantly processed to promote taste, convenience and shelf life.
Aside from own-label products, what were the healthiest brands?
Brand healthiness ranking
At the top was The A2 Milk Company, while at the bottom were Bundaberg Drinks and Mondelez (whose portfolio includes Cadbury, Oreo, BelVita and Philadelphia).
- The A2 Milk Company – HSR 4.2
- Nudie Foods, Sanitarium – 4.1
- Bundaberg Drinks, Mondelez – 1.2.
‘Real action’ needed
Professor Bruce Neal of The George Institute for Global Health says the government urgently needs to act on unhealthy food.
“We need the government to focus their efforts on helping manufacturers and retailers to make our foods healthier,” he said.
“Getting healthier foods on the shelves is key to curbing the epidemic of obesity and diet-related ill health blighting Australia. Every day of inaction is putting the health of millions of Australians at risk.”