Nutrient profiling aims to classify or rank foods according to their nutritional composition to assist policies aimed at improving the nutritional quality of foods and diets. The present paper reviews a French approach of nutrient profiling by describing the SAIN,LIM system and its evolution from its early draft to the simplified nutrition labelling system (SENS) algorithm. Considered in 2010 by WHO as the ‘French model’ of nutrient profiling, SAIN,LIM classifies foods into four classes based on two scores: a nutrient density score (NDS) called SAIN and a score of nutrients to limit called LIM, and one threshold on each score. The system was first developed by the French Food Standard Agency in 2008 in response to the European regulation on nutrition and health claims (European Commission (EC) 1924/2006) to determine foods that may be eligible for bearing claims. Recently, the European regulation (EC 1169/2011) on the provision of food information to consumers allowed simplified nutrition labelling to facilitate consumer information and help them make fully informed choices. In that context, the SAIN,LIM was adapted to obtain the SENS algorithm, a system able to rank foods for simplified nutrition labelling. The implementation of the algorithm followed a step-by-step, systematic, transparent and logical process where shortcomings of the SAIN,LIM were addressed by integrating specificities of food categories in the SENS, reducing the number of nutrients, ordering the four classes and introducing European reference intakes. Through the French example, this review shows how an existing nutrient profiling system can be specifically adapted to support public health nutrition policies.