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Helping Zambian Consumers Make Better Food Purchasing Choices

21st December, 2020

The long-awaited Zambia Good Food Logo, a joint initiative of the government of Zambia, SUN Business Network, World Food Programme, and private sector, launched on the 15th October 2020 aimed at helping consumers to make better food choices.

The Good Food Logo is the first front-of-pack certification mark to be introduced in a lower middle-income country. The logo appears on eligible products that meet pre-defined nutrition criteria, developed following extensive collaboration with technical experts from the National Food and Nutrition Commission, Zambia Bureau of Standards and Choices International. Specific nutrition criteria were based on international dietary guidelines from the World Health Organisation and adapted to the Zambian nutrition context, which shows high rates of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, coupled with rapidly rising rates of overweight and non-communicable diseases. The criteria, which will be reviewed on an annual basis by a scientific committee, are category-specific and consider the levels of saturated and trans fatty acids, sugar, salt, dietary fibre, energy, and micronutrients in food and beverage products. The National Food and Nutrition Commission is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the logo, in partnership with the Zambia Bureau of Standards, who is responsible for testing, and certifying eligible products.

The Good Food Logo is unique in that it is the first scheme of its kind aimed both at reducing the consumption of food ingredients that contribute to overnutrition and associated non-communicable diseases, as well as encouraging the consumption of essential micronutrients. These forms of malnutrition are both driven and compounded by limited nutrition knowledge and awareness, low consumer demand for nutritious food, inadequate availability of affordable nutritious products, and the increasing presence of cheap and convenient junk food within the local retail environment.

The Good Food Logo initiative took five years from conception to implementation, with the SUN Business Network playing a critical facilitation role in ensuring buy-in from both government and private sector stakeholders. To date, 25 products have been approved to use the logo, with a further 11 products pending approval.

However, the process hasn’t been without its challenges. Although the certification cost has been waived for the first cohort of businesses, going forward it may be hard to convince businesses (particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, who make up the majority of food producers in the country) to incur additional costs through the certification approval process and redesign of new packaging to include the logo. At the implementation level, there is limited laboratory capacity for micronutrient testing in country, and there have been many discussions on the ownership of the logo, with final coordination approved to be with the Zambia Bureau of Standards and the National Food and Nutrition Commission.

Ultimately, ongoing and consistent engagement with key stakeholders will be essential to maintain momentum and demonstrate the logo’s value addition. The Good Food Logo is an excellent example of successful multi-stakeholder partnership and the positive role the private sector can play in changing consumption behaviour patterns, making nutrition more aspirational to consumers, and reformulating their products so that they have a healthier composition.

The Good Food Logo initiative was funded by the Government of Ireland, with the support of the Government of Zambia, SUN Business Network, Choices International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

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