What can we replace the NOVA 1,2,3,4 icons with?

For each product, we compute the degree of processing using the NOVA classification:

  • Group 1 - Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
  • Group 2 - Processed culinary ingredients
  • Group 3 - Processed foods
  • Group 4 - Ultra-processed food and drink products

When we introduced NOVA 3 years ago, I created icons with a style similar to the Nutri-Score logo:


But the icons have issues:

  • NOVA has to be explained, it’s not obvious from the icon what “NOVA 3” is
  • even though the groups are numbered, it’s not really a scale. e.g. NOVA 2 is things like sugar, salt, spices: it’s not something that is worse than NOVA 1.
  • with 2 scales A/B/C/D/E for Nutri-Score and 1/2/3/4 for NOVA ,it’s hard to know how to compare a Nutri-Score C / NOVA 4 product with a Nutri-Score D / NOVA 3 product. And with Eco-Score it’s getting worse.
  • the most important distinction is between NOVA 3 and NOVA 4.

So it could be a good thing to change how we display the NOVA groups. In fact we may decide to not put the name NOVA up front, and instead highlight “Unprocessed”, “Processed”, “Ultra-processed” which can be immediately understood.

Whenever we can, we display both an icon + a corresponding text. So we could for instance have a red factory icon for ultra-processed + the text “Ultra-processed foods” as a description, for instance in Knowledge Panels and Attributes.

Here is what we display today:


If we do replace the NOVA icons by something else, what could it be?

  • If we can, we should avoid having text in the icon itself (Nova or Nutri-Score is fine, but if the text has to be translated, that would mean we would need different icons by language)
  • In some settings, the icon will be displayed without an additional text (e.g. small icons in lists of products, in the app and on the website).
  • Ideally it should be obvious that the 4 icons refer to the same thing (e.g. if we use one icon with different colours, it’s obvious, but if we use a factory for NOVA 4 and a carrot for NOVA 1, then it’s less obvious)

Any ideas?

I have the vague idea of an icon with one always remaining icon + an additional icon which correspond to the level and still using color scheme (see below). A very rough draft to make the idea understandable : Figma (here processing is the toque, and we have different symbols). Icons are from noun project.

Also the color scheme could be reviewed to have a really strong demarcation for nova 4.

This completely avoid words, but maybe still hard to understand without an explanation (it maybe a progress though if we found good symbols).

I find it rather clear, with both the color and the picture to symbolize the degree of processing. There still could be a misunderstanding with the plant icon for the first degree, some people could interpret it as the vegetables category.

You’re right, I though about a pear also, or maybe a pear and an easy to identify vegetable (eg. a leek?).

a pear could suggests the vegetables category too. Why not a pear + a fish? Like this, it includes all the simplest food forms.

1 Like

The double icon is interesting, as it gives unity and makes it clear it’s part of a set.

It might be hard to see what’s in the toque in some settings when we display very tiny icons, e.g. the homepage of the website:


Here is another proposal, with a single icon, a factory, which makes it clear it’s about processing, and with a sense of scale, while avoiding hard numbers.


Yes it’s interesting but it has the drawback of inducing that everything is manufactured, while as you told it’s really nova 4 which is problematic. Maybe going in a less “traffic” light design as I proposed may help ?

what do you exactly mean @alex alex?

(sorry I missed your post)

The gradation of NOVA is misleading, in the sense that 1 - 2 - 3 are ok for health, while 4 is not ok (and we could imagine different shades of 4 according to additives !). So with a logo in green / yellow / orange / red + a logo where there is a linearity (1 bar / 2 bar / 3 bar / 4 bar) we really loose this information that 1 - 2 - 3 are ok (or quite ok) but 4 is not !

That was also the sense of using different colors on my proposal (green green green RED), and not using factory for 1 - 2 - 3

For scale of colors maybe, we could play on saturation for 1 - 2 - 3, then use red for 4.
Capture d’écran de 2022-04-12 16-39-03

It makes sense. Then we could do something like this:

Yep, but I still have a bit of regret that’s it’s always a factory (when it’s not necessarily for level 1 / 2 ).
But at least it conveys the right warning.

Or maybe:


(the idea is to convey that level 1 is really, no processing)

The more there is green, the more it is a good product in my mind. :roll_eyes:
We must be probably very careful of what people understand.

Playing only with colors is counterproductive for many people with disabilities such as color blindness. It’s also an issue if you can only use black and white.

In comparison, Nutri-Score is more universal in my mind as:

  • it does not rely uniquely on colors
  • A to E is very common way to evaluate things all around the world (school, energy logos, etc.)
  • it contains all needed information: the name NUTRI-SCORE, all the levels and the one related to the product
  • Nutri-Score can be displayed in black and white, it’s still very easy to understand.

I would be in favor to:

  • display the whole scale
  • always display the name of the score (it would also ease the reuse of it)

@charlesnepote the color here is a plus (and color blind people is ok here (bars), even for the color, a red is really black compared to a green, even in greyscale).

It seems to me that you do not address the concerns that this is not a linear scale (in fact only 4 is bad).

Nutriscore was balanced to be linear, not Nova.

I rather agree with @charlesnepote about the fact that the more there is green, the more the product is “ok”, but I also agree with @alex (no, I’m not Swiss^^) about the different shades of green for the 3 first levels and a red one for the 4th.

So in fact my initial idea was to hide the name of the score, because it does not have an obvious meaning. “Nutri-Score” is obvious. “Nova” doesn’t mean anything.

I like that one. But then we completely lose the link to the NOVA number 1, 2, 3, 4 (which may be a good thing).

One thing about the factory bars is that they look like battery bars, and for batteries, the fuller the better.

Designing good icons is definitely very hard.

Assuming that you want to downsize Nova to a bool (Nova 4 / not Nova 4), I suggest that icon, to be used like “gluten-free yes/no”:
Capture d’écran 2022-04-13 à 19.01.46
(taken from https://fonts.google.com/icons?selected=Material+Icons)
We can also imagine a coexistence of Nova/1234 and Ultraprocessed yes/no, a bit like vegan that is like a subset of vegetarian.

Suggested “Ultra-processed” icon in action: