The New Food Label, Type of Fat, and Consumer Choice
A Pilot Study
Kathleen B. Hrovat, MEd;
Karen Z. Harris;
Alan D. Leach, MS;
Betsy S. Russell, MBA;
Betsy V. Harris, MEd;
Dennis L. Sprecher, MD
Arch Fam Med. 1994;3(8):690-695.
To determine how frequently lay consumers evaluate both the front label of a product package and other nutritional information on the back label of the package; whether the nutritional descriptors on the front label that concern fat affect consumer choice; to what degree information on the back label redirects this choice; and how well consumers understand the percent daily value on the new food label.
Preliminary cross-sectional survey.
General community and university setting.
Volunteer sample of 200 men and women.
Participants were first asked to choose between two fabricated cookie packages, one with a "low fat" and the other with a "no saturated fat" front label. Eighty-four percent of participants made their product choice without turning the package to view the back label. Thirty-six percent chose the product with the low fat front label, while 64% chose the product with the no saturated fat front label. In contrast, when respondents were subsequently presented with two cake products that contained no front-label descriptors (which resulted in 100% of subjects turning the package to view the back label), 53% chose the product with a label indicating 6 g of total fat (none saturated), while 47% chose the product with a label indicating 4 g of total fat (all saturated). Thirty-two of the 94 respondents who chose the no saturated fat cookie (only viewing the front label and giving fat content as the reason for their choice) chose a cake product in which the fat was all saturated, based on backlabel nutrition information. Finally, 56% of participants could not accurately use the new percent daily value component to calculate saturated fat content.
The data from this pilot study suggest that consumers make product choices based on only viewing the front-label information; health claims on the front label that are related to fat do affect product choice; a choice made based on the information on the front label is potentially altered once the back label is viewed; and approximately one half of our population could not clearly understand the percent daily value. We conclude that current consumer choice may be overly influenced by industry-directed claims placed on the front of a product package.
From the Lipid Research Division, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Cincinnati (Ohio).
THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CITED BY OTHER ARTICLES
DO CONSUMERS UNDERSTAND THE NEW FOOD LABEL?
JWatch General 1994;1994:7-7.