Study says health labels get shrugs from shoppers
These days, products on the grocery shelves and items on menus in fast food and fast casual restaurants usually have some sort of health label. However, a new study finds that most customers do not pay much attention to them.
Familiarity with a brand and product cost are much greater factors for customers choosing a product than whether it’s healthy, which plays only a modest role in the selection process, according to research from the Journal of Marketing Research reported in Discover Magazine.
Using a combination of loyalty program data to determine food choices and interviews to understand purchasing motivations, researchers discovered that health labels have only a small impact on consumption. At fast food restaurants, the posting of calorie counts likewise hardly affects what customers buy. In fact, it appears customers might not even look at the calorie counts for menu items that they buy frequently.
The study comes as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is working to update the definition of the term “healthy” for use on packaging, to provide consumers with more accurate information for informing health-conscious food choices. The government organization is also working on a “healthy” symbol that the industry will be able to voluntarily affix to products that fit the definition.
Canada is taking a similar tack albeit with opposite messaging. Canadian government agency Health Canada is working on a line of warning labels to be placed on the front of packaged products that are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
As health-conscious consumerism picked up in popularity in the mid-2010s, CPG brands, retailers and trade groups began looking for new ways to better inform customers about the health impacts of their purchases.
For instance, in 2016, New Jersey grocer Nojaim Brothers Supermarket partnered with a local university and community agencies to implement the NuVal health rating system on the shelf, to help address public health concerns impacting low-income shoppers.
Raley’s in 2017 rolled out its own eight-icon system of health labeling food products at the shelf.
More recently Raley’s expanded the shelf guide to include 23 product attributes, according to a press release.
- Do Grocery Store and Fast Food Health Labels Lead to Better Choices? – Discover Magazine
- Use of the Term Healthy on Food Labeling – United States Food & Drug Administration
- Front-of-Package Warning Labels on Prepackaged Foods in Canada – NYC Food Policy
- Will nutritional shelf label drive healthier choices for low-income shoppers? – RetailWire
- Will exclusive nutrtion labels set Raley’s apart from rivals? – RetailWire
- Raley’s expands shelf guide – Raley’s
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is there value in food health labels? Is there a better, more effective way for food health labeling to be done?