What the Consumer Expects: 7 Recommendations for Food Labelling

Best-before consumption dates, ingredients and nutritional information, allergens, and origin of the product are some of the key elements of a good label according to the results of a study conducted by a well-known consumer research organisation.

Here are 7 recommendations for good food labelling.

The study, which involved more than 2,500 consumers draws conclusions from which very interesting information can be extracted for food manufacturers, who already spend an enormous amount on product labelling and labelling machines. It shows how the label of their product can be a great tool to build consumer confidence in their products.

1. The study notes that 90% of consumers read food labels at the time of purchase. 65% claim to read them always and another 25% depending on the product (first time purchase, novel product, according to type of food – dairy, infant, meat, prepared product, etc.). For consumers that indicated their diet is conditioned by some factor (illness, allergies, diet, etc.) the label is read in 100% of cases.

2. Consumption dates, ingredients and nutritional information, are key elements. The study indicates that the information on which consumers are most fixed is the expiration date or preferred consumption date, ingredients and nutritional information. The data least focused on is the country of origin, the manufacturer, or allergens.

However, this changes in the profile of consumers that indicate that their diet is conditioned by some factor. In this case, for 14% of respondents, allergens rank fourth in their reading and information priority. They also give more importance to the country of origin of the product and less importance to aspects such as the benefits or qualities identified on the label, how to use it, and the manufacturer, distributor or packer.

3. Simple, clear and clean labels: allergens, ingredients and origin of the product. Only 39% of respondents said they had noticed any changes in labelling in recent years, especially in the type of information and the clarity with which it is presented.

However, 34% of consumers who have noticed changes consider that the nutritional information is clearer, while 32% think they can read the information better, and 31% think that the information on allergenic ingredients is more prominent.

Notably, 60% say they can’t read the information easily. 59% consider that the wording is very small, 19% that the letters are very close, while 15% believe the colour of the letters should be better highlighted.

Likewise, 75% of consumers consider that the origin of the food products is not clearly indicated on labels. For 27% of consumers, for products such as meat and fresh fish, information on the country of origin should be more clearly identified.

Regarding ingredients, although this is the second most read element of labels, 38% of the consumers surveyed stated that they do not understand the list of ingredients. Information on labels that is not easily understood leads to rejection of the product by the consumer. In contrast, clear, simple and clean labels generate a purchase action for products.

4. The nutritional information is the third element most consulted on labels. In relation to nutritional information, calories (13%), sugars (12%), saturated fats (12%) and carbohydrates (11%) are the elements that consumers identify the most. Salt is relegated to 8%.

5. With regard to sensory aspects and benefits of the product, there are two challenges: 62% of consumers consider that the product meets the information indicated on its label and their expectations are met. Meanwhile, 38% state they are not satisfied. The qualities / benefits of the product such as claims regarding “rich in…”, “low in…”, etc. and sensory aspects are the main areas which apparently need improvement.

The consumer demands transparency and honesty in the information provided in the labelling of products.

7. The conclusions of this study confirm that the label is a critical element of the product. The consumer reads it in 90% of cases and gives high value to the information it contains. This information conditions the purchase of the product and the expectations that the consumer has.