Auckland-based food marketing agency Impact PR, commissioned the independent survey to gain further insight into consumer perceptions of the clarity of food labeling in New Zealand and the criteria shoppers used when selecting products to put in their supermarket trolleys.
According to the research, consumers were confused about what the labels actually revealed, with almost six out of 10 (58%) of respondents saying that food labels were hard to understand.
The survey also showed that more than half of Kiwis (53%) believe that food manufacturers do not provide enough information on their labels.
More than one third (35%) of shoppers listed low levels of saturated fat as being the most important factor in selecting whether a product was healthy while another third (34%) of respondents indicated a tick given by a health organization was the most important criteria for them personally. More than a tenth (13%) of respondents said that a healthy product would be free of ingredients which they are allergic to.
Nearly one in 10 (9%) of those surveyed said a low sugar level was the most important factor in determining which products were healthy with a further 3% indicating low levels of sodium as most important.
Perhaps surprising was the comparatively low percentage of consumers placing organic ingredients as the key characteristic in healthy food products -- just 5% stated this was the most important criteria for them.
Consumers who answered the survey felt that more information is needed on food labels, particularly country of origin and manufacturer details with four out of 10 (42%) stating this preference. This was followed by health benefits (24%) and fat content (16%).
Country of origin was more important to older people, particularly those aged 45 and above, and health benefits more so for younger consumers, i.e. under 35.
Suitability of food for those with allergies/gluten intolerance was listed at 9% and a further 5% called for more information on product suitability for diabetics.
Consumers also indicated they were interested in more information on product suitability for pregnant women and children (4%).
Impact PR managing director Fleur Revell said the company commissioned the research to find out whether consumers believed food manufacturers were doing enough in terms of food labelling.
“We wanted to know if consumers felt they had enough information to make informed choices at the checkout. The survey shows that there is a considerable gap between consumer’s needs for information at the point of purchase and what is being provided currently on product.”
Revell says due to the inconspicuous nature of food labels and the limited space available, manufacturers could look to additional means of communicating their product messages with their target audience.
From the August 31, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.