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Monster Health Food Company upstages rivals

16 Apr, 2014 10:28 AM
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Used the government's health star calculator: Trevor and Kim Lauman.
Used the government's health star calculator: Trevor and Kim Lauman.

A small business that makes muesli has debunked claims from some of the food industry's biggest companies that a new star-rating system will be too costly and impractical.

Monster Health Food Company, run by a husband and wife out of a Mount Druitt warehouse, will introduce its first food products with star ratings to supermarkets on Wednesday.

The company used the health star calculator briefly available on a federal website before it was pulled by Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash and her chief of staff Alastair Furnival, who Fairfax Media revealed had links to the junk food industry.

Monster got four stars on their ''berry muesli'' product for Coles and ''free and lo'' product for Woolworths, after results were verified by consumer group Choice.

''I can't honestly see it as expensive,'' co-owner and operator Trevor Lauman said. ''For all our seven products, it cost us $2000 for the artwork, another $2000 for the printing and $100 for the time to check.''

He said the total cost, which he expects to recoup through sales, quashed the Australian Food and Grocery Council's fear the labelling changes would cost food manufacturers up to $14,000 a product, or $200 million, industry wide.

The rating scheme, designed with industry input, health experts and consumer advocates, is set to begin in July on a voluntary basis. But Mr Lauman decided to make an early start, spurred by customer demand for more health information and potential marketing advantages.

“We think it’s a logical thing to do based on the values of our business. We thought let’s just do it, because it’s what we believe in and what we believe is good for the consumer,” he said.

Consumer group Choice said food giants such as Kellogg’s, Simplot and Mondelez, which has slammed the scheme as "ill-founded, unscientific and confusing", have no excuse.

“Monster is laying down the challenge. They’ve absorbed the costs and they’ve even got a market advantage, so there really is no excuse for the big companies," campaigner Angela Cartwright said.

''It shows the AFGC hysteria around the costs is, frankly, misinformation because, if a local company can do this, surely the big ones with multimillion-dollar marketing budgets can as well."

The AFGC said it stood by its comments about big financial burdens, having been successful in pushing for a cost-benefit analysis of the scheme.

“Many companies have expressed concern about the hard costs and assumed benefits associated with the front of pack labelling change,” a spokesman said. “This is currently being assessed through the cost benefit analysis initiated by Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash.”

Among Monster’s seven-product range, the ‘multigrain porridge’ product received the highest rating of five stars while the ‘free and fruity’ gluten-free option nabbed 3.5 stars. Mr Lauman conceded the algorithm still needed a few tweaks.

“One of the goodies is fibre, and clearly if you’re coeliac, it’s not something you want to push into your body,” he said. “Adjustments to the calculator will probably be made.”

Coles and Woolworths both said they supported extra nutrition labelling as long as it was clear and easy to use.

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COMMENTS

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Well I agree completely with Senator Leyonhjelm on this. We should have been growing this
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The proposed PPP Project will introduce an organised exchange for the grass-fed beef market
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Boris, a bit of an education for you. It is the capitalist "free trade merchants" taking