Commentary: Assigning grades to sugary drinks speaks to the Singaporean in me

Commentary: Assigning grades to sugary drinks speaks to the Singaporean in me

Nutri-Grade is a form of Front-of-Pack nutrition labelling, regarded as nudges – attempts to influence healthier behaviour without forbidding any options or significantly changing the costs of certain drinks.

Sure, consumers already had the ingredients list and nutritional values table, but it takes time and effort to study and compare each time we reach for a drink – partly why consumers are creatures of habit and tend to repurchase products we’ve already tried before.

A grade makes it easy to tell whether a drink is healthier at one glance, reducing consumer uncertainty. Certain food misconceptions can be dispelled, for example we may reconsider if pure fruit juice is always a healthier option each time we reach for the carton. Nutri-Grade labels reminds us that drinks too can be unhealthy.


Of course, Nutri-Grade, like other nutritional labels, isn’t perfect. For one, beverages commonly regarded as healthy, such as pure fruit juice and full fat milk, have astonishingly poorer grades than several brands of artificially sweetened carbonated drinks that have received B grades.

Clearly there are other nutritional benefits of juice and milk, such as vitamins and calcium. But the Nutri-Grade is scored based on sugar and saturated fat content – both linked to the risk of diabetes – and not on “healthiness” per se.

Since “healthier” does not equate to “healthy”, these mental contradictions may threaten the overall perceived veracity of Nutri-Grade. The Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Board have recognised some of these perceived contradictions and are seeking to address them, such as through public education efforts.