Economics, Non Recipes, Nutrition, Politics

Why Germany’s Nutri-Score is no more than a marketing tool for large food manufacturers


We have too many fat people in Germany. The population here is old and sick. Almost 40 percent of it is considered to be at high risk from coronavirus.

A disastrous number and of the main reasons why the Covid pandemic affects us so badly here in Europe. People here eat themselves sick. Adding to that, we live in super clean environments where we have not enough contact with germs. The immune system of many people in Germany is shit which is why they end up on the ventilator and eventually die from a virus that is only moderately harmful.

What could we do to improve public health? Well, the German state needs people to follow a healthy diet and to live an active lifestyle. For years, the government thought that it is enough to educate people about a healthy lifestyle so they make the right choices. This approach didn’t work out.

Obese people
We have too many obese people in Germany.

But the German government still believes in educating people. However, it also constantly shifts blame away from consumers to the industry. If you think about it, that makes no sense. Every food has an ingredient list that you can skim through before buying it. No one in the supermarket will force you to buy a certain food. People make a conscious choice to buy and eat junk food.

Germany introduces the Nutri-Score

Now the government has introduced a new labeling system for foods that is called Nutri-Score. It gives foods a score ranging from A (best score) to E (worst score).

Datei:Nutri-score-A light background logo.svg
The Nutri-Score logo.

At first, this doesn’t sound too bad. It seems reasonable that junk food like gummy bears or chocolate bars receive a bad score while a canned vegetable soup might receive a good score.

This is a system that benefits consumers, isn’t it? The industry should be outraged about it. Aren’t the Nestlés and Unilevers of this world the ones who sell us food that is full of salt, sugar, and harmful fats? Aren’t they the ones who receive bad ratings en masse?

Well, surprisingly these big food companies like Nestlé are excited about the Nutri-Score. They can’t wait to implement it. That is because if you take a closer look it is a marketing tool for them. They somehow manage to receive good scores in a rigged system.

How the Nutri-score gets calculated

The calculation of the Nutri-Score is the biggest bullshit I have ever seen. It works on the premise that some food ingredients are good while others are bad. Good ingredients give negative points whereas bad ingredients give plus points. The higher the sum of points, the worse the Nutri-Score.

Let’s take a look at the “good” ingredients:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Canola, walnut, and olive oil
  • Dietary fiber
  • Protein

And these are the “bad” ingredients:

  • Calories
  • Saturated fats
  • Sugar
  • Salt

I won’t deny that eating a cup of plain vegetables and fruits is healthier than eating a cup of table sugar. But how in the world do macronutrients like proteins receive a good score and saturated fats a negative one? There is no clear scientific evidence that saturated fats are unhealthy. The only thing we know is that polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3, have positive health effects.

The Nutri-Score is full of flaws

Why is there a need to incentivize people to eat more protein in the Western world? Why is this a positive selling point? Expect for some older people, we eat an oversupply of protein already. Especially in the form of meat and dairy. The last thing we need is more protein in our diet.

Pizza Kebab - Auchan - 400 g
Let’s have a “healthy” kebab pizza. Picture Source: Open Food Facts.

Is olive oil really healthier than butter? I doubt it. It is unproven. It’s just speculation by some dieticians.

How in the world are calories a bad thing? Is it really better to eat tons of fat- and calorie-reduced food instead of a smaller amount of regular food. The calorie count itself doesn’t say anything about the health effects of a certain food.

For drinks, it is regulated that only water can receive the best score. What about naturally-pressed fruit juices? My family has many apple trees and we make tons of juice. It’s delicious and I drink it every day. I am neither obese nor diabetic. It is not proven that the sugar naturally present in fruit juice is harmful.

It’s pure speculation that drinking fruit juice is bad for you. In my opinion, natural juice should even rank better than water because it is full of vitamins. Purified water provides almost no health benefits while fruit juice does. It can be very beneficial for your health to drink a glass of fruit juice a day.

I could go on forever talking about the flaws of the system. It’s full of ideology and it is not based on sound scientific evidence because there is none. Nutritional science is very complex. All we know is that we know almost nothing about nutrition.

The reason big food companies embrace the Nutri-Score

But why are the big players in the industry so excited about the Nutri-Score? Well, additives have no influence on the final score. You can pump your food full of preservatives, stabilizers, and dyes. It all doesn’t matter. The Nutri-Score helps to distract people from the ingredient list. They just see the green “A” of the Nutri-Score and think they buy wholesome food. How clever!

But it comes even better. What kind of products do the big players want to sell to you? They heavily market protein-rich and fat-reduced products. That’s where they can make a lot of money. High-quality fats like butter and olive oil tend to be expensive. It’s much cheaper to replace them with air.

I’m not kidding you. A common fat-replacer in the industry is gas. You inject gas into low-fat products to make them appear creamy and light. Another fat-replacer are proteins which are bound to dietary fiber or carbohydrates.

This is all very sophisticated technology that often only works in combination with a ton of additives. And in the end, the fat-reduced and protein-enriched product tastes still not as good as the original. But the no-fat air-infused cheese has a good Nutri-score while the artisanal full-fat cheese without any additives receives a bad score. How ridiculous!

Le camembert - Auchan - 375 g
Don’t even dare to eat traditionally produced camembert! The Nutri-Score is horrible. Picture Source: Open Food Facts.

The companies which develop and apply sophisticated technologies to produce these novel and “health-optimized” foods are the big players with a big budget. They can claim their products to be healthy and wholesome while small manufacturers that produce for example artisanal sausages, cheese, or vegetable preserves receive bad scores.

Is it really better to produce canned food with a lower salt or sugar content that is full of other preservatives? For years, it was claimed that a “clean label” without any additives in the ingredient list is the best food. Now, we are moving away from the “clean label” ideology. Consumers now get distracted by a Nutri-Score that heavily benefits the big food manufacturers in their mission to cut expensive ingredients out of their ingredient list and replace them with air, fiber, and additives.


Der Nutri-Score kommt nach Deutschland


  1. Hi Tim!
    This is actually a great article about the nutriscore. I actually don’t understand how many people who protect the interest of consumers are excited about this.
    Just one comment, water is more beneficial than fruit juice and it’s been explained why. Fruit is great because it has a good amount of fiber. When juicing the fruit, this fiber gets destroyed. The result is a liquid that is full of sugar but low on fiber. You’re better off drinking water (which is great for minerals) and eating an orange. 🙂
    Other than that great work! How can it be that a kebab pizza has a nutriscore B!?

    • Thanks for your comment, Lina!

      Yes, the lack of fiber is surely an argument against fruit juice. But it is also richer in Vitamins because you can get the dose of 5 apples in one serving. It’s tricky to decide on this issue, I think. Of course, too much juice is not good because of the sugar and acid, especially for the teeth. I wouldn’t call fruit juice empty calories though. It’s rich in antioxidants and other plant nutrients. It’s just too complex to give food a score because I believe every food has its place in one’s diet . -Tim

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