Food labelling: What do consumers really think?

 

Our services include assisting food businesses by reviewing the information on their food labels for accuracy.  As such, we believe it is important to not only understand food labelling regulation but to also understand consumer perceptions surrounding food labelling.

A food label provides a wealth of information for the consumer however an important question is, how much do consumers actually refer to the information on the food label?

In order to answer this question, we will be highlighting some key findings from the Consumer Label Survey 2015 report, undertaken by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).  The survey was completed by a random representative sample of 1396 Australians and 1015 New Zealanders, aged 15 years and older.

Below are some key findings from the survey report which provide insight into the extent that consumers refer to information on food labels:

Trust

  • In response to the following statement ‘Generally speaking, I trust the information on food labels’, approximately 67% of Australians and about 77% of New Zealanders somewhat or strongly agreed

Interest

  • Around three-quarters of consumers in both countries appeared at least ‘moderately interested’ in standardised nutrition information (a higher proportion of Australians were ‘very interested’)
  • Around 3% of consumers in each country were not interested at all in standardised nutrition information
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Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)

The following refers to consumers purchasing a food product for the first time:

  • Around 70% of consumers in both countries were found to use the NIP
  • With regards to NIP components, sugar was found to be the most common component in the NIP looked for by consumers, with around 60% of Australians and New Zealanders looked for sugar information in the NIP
  • Fat was found to be the second most referred to component in the NIP in both countries
  • Saturated Fat was found to the third most referred to component in the NIP in both countries

Ingredient List

The following refers to consumers purchasing a food product for the first time:

  • Slightly more than 70% of Australians and approximately 65% of New Zealanders usually looked at the ingredient list
  • With regards to ingredient information looked for, slightly more than 40% of Australians and New Zealanders looked for the types of sugars added and around 34% looked for types of fats or oils added

Claims

The following refers to consumers purchasing a food product for the first time:

  • About 40% and 15% of Australians and New Zealanders looked at Nutrient Content Claims and Health claims respectively

Summary

Food labels are not only subject to regulation, they are a trusted source of information and used by the majority of consumers, and it is absolutely vital that they are accurate.

With regards to nutritional components, consumers looked most commonly at sugar, fat and saturated fat in both the NIP and ingredient list when purchasing a product for the first time. Interestingly, the majority of consumers did not look at nutrient and health claims when purchasing a product for the first time (reasons for this finding are not stated in the survey report).

The next question is, how well do consumers understand the information on food labels?  To answer this question, we delve further into the survey results and have put together a summary for you in our blog post Food labelling: How well do you understand food labels?