More consumers understanding and taking note of food labels

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 4th August 2008

Nutrition label

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of American consumers say they notice nutritional information on food packaging more often now compared to two years ago, according to a new global online survey by The Nielsen Company.

Nielsen also discovered that, while two-thirds (67 per cent) of US consumers claim to “mostly” understand the nutritional information on food packaging, less than half (44 per cent) of global consumers suggest they do.

“As obesity rates continue to rise globally and with lifestyle-related heart disease the number one killer worldwide today, there is increasing pressure on the food industry to play a greater role in educating consumers about what they’re eating,” reported Deepak Varma, Senior Vice President at Nielsen Customized Research. “Given that so many consumers are taking time to read nutrition labels, there is also a marketing opportunity for food manufacturers to provide consumer-friendly information on labels that may entice shoppers to switch brands at the point of purchase.”

For some US shoppers, scanning food labels appears to be routine behavior with 25 per cent checking the nutritional information while trying to lose weight, compared to only 15 per cent of global consumers. Nielsen’s research establishes that more than half of American consumers (51 per cent) always check the fat content on nutrition labels, while nearly half check food labeling for calories (48 per cent) and trans fats (43 per cent).

“The relationship between consumers and nutritional information and labeling provides unmistakable insight into health and diet concerns,” Varma advised. “Without question, nutritional labeling can be a powerful marketing tool for savvy food manufacturers. For example, food marketers can make relatively low investments in pack and labeling changes compared to advertising and promotions and drive significant sales.”

Other key findings include:

* While less than a quarter (21 per cent) of US consumers always check the nutritional information on food packaging, nearly half (42 per cent) check when thinking of buying a product for the first time.

* Eight per cent of U.S. consumers never check the nutritional information, consistent with the global average.

* Sixty-seven per cent of American consumers say they understand the distinct difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat, slightly higher than the global average (60 per cent).

* Globally, almost half (42 per cent) of consumers check food labels for preservatives, while only 24 percent of U.S. consumers say they do.