Study on consumers’ use of nutrition information

by Editor
Thursday, January 28, 2010

Results from a European study on consumer use of nutrition information on food labels and their understanding of front-of-pack nutrition information, are now available ahead of print on the website of the Journal of Public Health.

The study, conducted by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) and Professor Klaus Grunert of Aarhus University in Denmark, in six European countries, reveals that the understanding of nutrition information seems to be more widespread than actual use and that there are considerable differences between consumers in different countries in both understanding and use of nutrition labelling.

The recently published results are based on a survey of consumers in the UK, Sweden, France, Germany, Poland and Hungary who were observed at major retailers in the respective countries when shopping in the six product categories selected for the study; breakfast cereals, soft drinks, confectionery, ready meals, salty snacks and yoghurts, Field researchers recorded whether shoppers looked at the front or elsewhere on pack or did not look at all at the information on the pack before putting it in the basket.

The in-store observations were followed by in-store interviews (11,800) on their purchase choices. Once interviewed, the study participants were asked to fill out a more in-depth questionnaire at home, and 5,700 completed questionnaires were returned.

The study shows that there is a significant gap between understanding and use of nutrition labelling; the proportion of consumers who understand the nutrition information on labels is considerably higher than the proportion of those who actually read and make use of the information when making a purchase decision. It is therefore suggested that low use of nutrition labelling could be explained by a lack of motivation among consumers to use the information rather than by their inability to understand and interpret the information.

The study reveals considerable national differences in both understanding and use of nutrition information on food labels. The understanding of GDA labels was high in the UK, Sweden and Germany, while lower in the other countries. Some of these differences may be attributed to the public debate about the role of nutrition labelling at a national level, and penetration of GDA labels in those countries.

Full text can be found at