Policy

1 February 2023

“We see ourselves as a partner to our customers seeking a well-balanced diet.”

On nutritional labelling, nutrition education, and the fight against food waste: Charlotte Rosendahl, Managing Director Quality Management, discusses the benchmark paper on the federal government's path to a nutrition strategy (“Weg zur Ernährungsstrategie der Bundesregierung”), and the revision of nutritional labelling.
Reading time: 8 min.

Dear Reader,

Shortly before Christmas, the federal government approved the key points prepared by the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL) for a nutrition strategy. These form the basis on which to define the principles of the federal government’s planned nutrition strategy, as regards both content and processes. A final draft of the nutrition strategy will be approved by the federal government by the end of 2023, but I think several key points need to be critically examined.

It has long been obvious to the REWE Group that providing consumers with sufficient, clear information makes it faster and easier for them to choose healthy, balanced products. As a food retailer, the REWE Group sees itself as a key actor in bringing about a transformation of the nutrition system. In this context, we support the political goal of motivating consumers to opt for a healthy and sustainable diet. The REWE Group is aware of its responsibility to create beneficial nutrition environments. Thanks to our quality management processes, which have been honed over the course of several decades, we are heavily involved in relevant strategies. Helping consumers to make an informed choice, with food labels for example, is especially important. For this reason, we were the first food retailer in Germany to add the Nutri-Score to our own-brand products. We are confident that the Nutri-Score is a good tool for providing clear information and thus helping consumers to make choices within a particular product group. More than 80 percent of REWE and PENNY own-brand products now carry the Nutri-Score label, and our aim is to have the label on all our own-brand products by mid-year.

The REWE Group welcomes the federal government’s efforts to strengthen a uniform, Europe-wide, binding labelling system, ideally the Nutri-Score.

Charlotte Rosendahl, Managing Director Quality Management
charlotte-rosendahl
Charlotte Rosendahl, Managing Director Quality Management

In order to implement nutrition labelling on a broad scale, however, the labelling system must be explained to less nutritionally aware consumers. The Nutri-Score is not self-explanatory. It requires comprehensive information campaigns with political support in order to clarify the way the Nutri-Score works, especially if – as is happening now – changes are made to the Nutri-Score algorithm. Retail companies cannot do this on their own.

To ensure that meaningful comparisons can be made within a product group, it is essential for as many products as possible to use such a label. In addition to EU member states that have spoken out against labelling, there are still many companies that do not want to put a Nutri-Score on their products. The REWE Group welcomes the federal government’s efforts to strengthen a uniform, Europe-wide, binding labelling system, ideally the Nutri-Score. I am aware that this debate is a very emotional one in Europe and that many countries are vehemently opposed to the Nutri-Score model. However, I still believe that recognition of the Nutri-Score in all European Union member states is a worthwhile (interim) goal.

The introduction of the Nutri-Score at the REWE Group is merely one pillar of our involvement. Observing our customers’ purchasing decisions, we have noticed several trends emerge over the years, such as milk substitutes and meat alternatives. Plant-based nutrition plays a major role in our overall marketing and in our own-brand strategy. Among other things, we try to persuade customers who prefer organic products that our REWE Bio + vegan, “Naturgut” (organic), and Food for Future (vegan) ranges provide them with food options that are both environmentally friendly and vegan. Irrespective of this, we, as a large food retailer, have long aimed to be able offer REWE Group customers a wide array of products. We want to continue to do so in the future as well and further expand our product offerings.

It has long been obvious to the REWE Group that providing consumers with sufficient, clear information makes it faster and easier for them to choose healthy, balanced products.

Charlotte Rosendahl, Managing Director Quality Management
charlotte-rosendahl
Charlotte Rosendahl, Managing Director Quality Management

We see ourselves as a partner to our customers seeking a well-balanced diet. For this reason, the REWE Group has contributed to the BMEL’s National Reduction and Innovation Strategy for Sugar, Fats, and Salt in Processed Foods. In 2018, we initiated an internal programme to reduce sugar and salt. We continuously monitor the nutritional value of our own-brand products in order to optimise them, always with an eye on quality. Children are not at the centre of our marketing activities, and in our aforementioned reduction programmes, we do, of course, take account of specific needs. We firmly believe in not underestimating the ability of consumers to make decisions. This is why, in addition to our reduction programmes, we have been active on various committees for many years. In our view, accelerating the pace of nutrition education and information campaigns is the key to enabling our customers – both young and old – to make informed decisions.

As a food retailer, we welcome the goal of reducing food waste in every sector as outlined in the federal government’s benchmark paper. At the same time, we see time and again how much responsibility is assigned to retailers when it comes to the issue of food waste and how little is ascribed to private households. On average, REWE and PENNY sell 98 percent of the food they offer for sale. It is in our own best interest – in economic, environmental and social terms – to sell as many products as possible. For this reason, we optimise our logistics and warehousing capacity with the goal of preventing losses as far as possible. Of the other two percent, the REWE Group donates a large portion to federal food bank initiatives in Germany – and it has done so since 1996. I would also like to emphasise that the food products that end up in food retailers’ waste bins are often no longer fit to eat. This may include defective items, such as products that are mouldy or that have been recalled and pose a direct risk to human health. For this reason, the REWE Group takes a highly critical view of the practice of bin diving. Instead, we ask that the federal government provide financial support to charity organisations like food banks in order to enable large-scale food donations.

We are pleased to help the federal government on its path to a nutrition strategy.

Yours Charlotte Rosendahl

charlotte-rosendahl
About:
Charlotte Rosendahl
Managing Director Quality Management

joined the REWE Group in 2018. She represents the company on the Food Federation Management Board.

About REWE Group

The cooperatively organized REWE Group is one of the leading trade and tourism groups in Germany and Europe. In 2023, the company generated a total external turnover of more than 92 billion euros. Founded in 1927, REWE Group operates with around 390,000 employees in 21 European countries. 

The sales lines include REWE, REWE CENTER and BILLA as well as BILLA PLUS and ADEG supermarkets and consumer stores, the discounter PENNY, IKI, the drugstores BIPA and the toom Baumarkt DIY stores. The company also operates convenience stores REWE To Go and the e-commerce activities REWE Liefer- and Abholservice as well as Zooroyal and Weinfreunde. The Lekkerland Group comprises the wholesale activities of the business group in the area of on-the-go consumption. Under the umbrella of DERTOUR Group, the Travel and Tourism division includes more than 2,100 travel agencies, tour operators as well as hotel brands and online travel portals.