Consumers are far away from the health claims...

Consumers are far away from the health claims discussion

2012 will bring great changes to European Union healthy foods and supplements marketing as the health claims register becomes law. A new report shows that consumers are very far away from EFSA and the health claims discussion.

In a new report that examines the role of health claims in healthy foods marketing, the Healthy Marketing Team points out that a rejected claim may not mean as much to consumers as it does to industry itself, and that a rejected health claim should not necessarily be a brake on innovative products and marketing.

Peter Wennstrom, the president of the Healthy Marketing Team, showed that even as 80% of the claims on that register are rejections. This result is concerning industry deeply.

Wennstrom writes in the report co-authored with Inga Koehler and Neal Cavalier-Smith that the food industry is struggling to find the right way to communicate their brands within the regulatory scenario. But what they are sometimes ignoring and forgetting to ask themselves is whether there is a real need for a health claim. In this increasingly confusing scenario it is very easy to lose focus on the consumer and start to believe in myths created by the industry and the regulators themselves.

The report suggests that health claims are just one part of the complex equations consumers quickly roll through when selecting food products from retail shelves.

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-approved or rejected claims are important, but perhaps not as important as industry would be led to believe. Wennstrom found, that consumers are very far away from EFSA and the health claims discussion. They firstly consider buying a food they like, secondly a brand they like and only when there seems to be a problem they may look for the details.

He thinks that in confusing times, the role of the industry and the marketeer is to make consumers' choices easier. Every shopper stands in front of the shelf making complex mental calculations with everything she knows about the product, the secret is to know what informs her calculation.

Wennstrom works the ideas into his four-factors for healthy food marketing success scheme as a component of ‘understanding the benefit', again noting that even positive claims can be confounded. The health claim is a verbal expression of a benefit derived from an ingredient or a nutrient. It is not necessarily in consumer-friendly language.

The other three factors are:
- Does the consumer need the product?
- Is the ingredient accepted?
- Is the brand trusted?
Source: The Healthy Marketing Team