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Food label habits to improve nutrition: Survey

By staff reporter , 25-Aug-2009

Making healthy food choices and adding specific nutrients into their diet are the two main reasons why US consumers read food labels, according to a recent survey.

Conducted by ingredient manufacturer Tate & Lyle and involving over 4,000 US consumers, the survey findings highlight eight consumer approaches to label reading.

“Consumers want to make healthy choices and more than 60 percent of them rely on food and beverage labels to do this. Research also shows that 50 percent of consumers look to labels when they are purposely trying to add specific nutrients, like fiber, to their diets,” said Lisa Sanders, PhD, nutrition scientist at Tate & Lyle.

Presented last month at the International Dietary Fiber Conference in Vienna, Austria, the research includes both quantitative and qualitative data and is based on interviews with 14,000 consumers around the world.

How consumers read labels

Responses from the 4,221 US participants highlighted a number of approaches to label reading that help them determine which foods and beverages to choose. These are:

  • New product:Many consumers are brand loyal and will scrutinize the labels of new products to determine if trial is necessary,” said Tate & Lyle.
  • Who it is for: “Parents are exhibiting increased interest in reading labels if food and beverages are for their children.”
  • Everyday or indulgent: Consumers are more diligent about reading packages of everyday staples. They also report having an interest in healthy indulgence.”
  • Current media reports: Consumers are more inclined to read labels if they read or watch diet and nutrition feature stories by key media influencers like Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz.”
  • Influence of a prior diet program: “Former dieters have learned to look for carbs and fiber from diets like Atkins and Weight Watchers.”
  • Front package claims: When specific health claims are made on the front of packages, consumers tend to scrutinize the back and side panels of packages for additional information.”
  • Dieting: Consumers focus on the most important aspects of the package that are dictated by the diet they are currently following.”
  • Pushed for time: Consumers, especially parents, are time-crunched and tend to read labels quickly to stay on schedule.”

The survey also found that the majority of US consumers (65 percent) reported that they think about eating healthier than they did two years ago.

For more information on the global findings of the survey, click here .