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The Influence of Labels on Consumer Choice - US - May 2010

The proportion of the population watching their diet has risen dramatically in recent years. At present, about half of American adults are watching their diet in an effort to limit calories and avoid potentially harmful ingredients. Along with the increased interest in health and wellness has come a rise in demand for labeling systems that help people more easily identify foods and beverages that are in line with their healthy lifestyle aspirations.

At odds with this, many companies make unsubstantiated claims on their products about healthfulness, resulting in a 23% increase in the number of warning letters from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during 2008-09 that were sent to companies that violated labeling rules. The FDA also claims that the number of letters issued for false advertising doubled during the same period. In line with these developments, Mintel’s research reveals that many consumers want nutritional information but are suspicious of claims made by companies.

Given the strong demand for nutritional labeling and a renewed focus on the issue within the FDA, Mintel conducted a comprehensive study on the influence of labels on consumers’ choices.

More specifically, the study addresses the following topics:

  • Major changes that have occurred within the FDA in the last two years in relation to nutritional labeling
  • The extent to which nutritional information and labels influence consumers’ choices about what types of foods and brands they purchase
  • Types of front-of-package (FOP) labeling systems that have been developed in recent years and the extent to which these systems are in line with consumers’ preferences
  • The types of labels (e.g., simple, colorful, cute, childlike) that consumers prefer and why
  • Claims that resonate most and least with consumers

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Data sources
        • Consumer survey data
          • Abbreviations and terms
            • Abbreviations
              • Terms
              • Executive Summary

                  • FDA renews focus on labeling and nutritional information
                    • Label reading common and often driven by health concerns
                      • Innovations and associated claims mostly down in 2009-10
                        • Manufacturers, retailers, and third parties weigh in with labeling systems
                          • Trust with claims made by manufacturers remains an issue
                            • Importance of NFP information
                              • Influence of health claims
                                • Clear need for ease of interpreting label information
                                  • Confusion hinders influence of natural/organic claims
                                    • Sustainability and ethical claims gaining traction
                                    • Insights and Opportunities

                                      • Symbol-based labeling systems likely to get more attention from the less educated
                                        • Figure 1: Frequency of having seen FOP labeling health symbols or icons, September-December 2008
                                        • Figure 2: Frequency of using FOP labeling health symbols or icons in food purchasing decisions, September-December 2008
                                      • FOP labeling so far: Missed opportunities
                                      • Inspire Insights

                                          • Smarter with Sniff Packaging
                                            • What’s it about
                                              • What we’ve seen
                                                • Specifics
                                                  • Implications
                                                    • That’s the “Pecsi” I Remember
                                                      • What’s it about
                                                        • What we’ve seen
                                                          • Implications
                                                          • The Regulatory Landscape of Labeling

                                                            • Key points
                                                              • FDA and others express concern that claims may mislead and confuse consumers
                                                                • And label confusion with the NFP also abounds
                                                                  • Under new FDA commissioner, nutrition labeling becomes priority
                                                                    • FDA steps up the pressure
                                                                      • FDA paying special attention to claims on children’s products
                                                                        • Consumer demand for nutrition information likely to drive regulation trend
                                                                          • Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) will become more common
                                                                            • Government also scrutinizing sustainability claims more carefully
                                                                              • Effects of FOP regulations could be significant
                                                                              • Label Reading Behavior and Drivers

                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                  • Nutritional information important when purchasing for the first time
                                                                                    • Figure 3: Frequency of using nutrition information for first time purchases, September-December 2008
                                                                                  • General nutrition information and ingredient awareness common reasons for reading labels
                                                                                    • Figure 4: Frequency of using nutrition information for specific purposes, September-December 2008
                                                                                    • Figure 5: Frequency of having had food decision change because of nutrition label, in past two weeks, September-December 2008
                                                                                  • Demand for health-related information is high
                                                                                    • Figure 6: Incidence of presently watching/controlling diet, May 2004-March 2009
                                                                                  • Weight is primary driver; fat and calories primary ingredient concerns
                                                                                    • Figure 7: Reasons for watching/controlling diet, 2006 and 2009
                                                                                    • Figure 8: Beliefs about accuracy of FOP claims, September-December 2008
                                                                                  • Most overweight or obese, but rate is no longer growing
                                                                                    • Figure 9: Percentage of population aged 20 and over who are overweight or obese or extremely obese, 1988-2008
                                                                                    • Figure 10: Frequency of use of calorie information, September-December 2008
                                                                                    • Figure 11: Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents, 2-19 years of age, 1976-2008
                                                                                  • Most look for ingredient claims yet many still find them suspect
                                                                                    • Figure 12: Attributes diet-watchers look for in food, 2006-09
                                                                                • Innovations and Innovators

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • Launches down sharply from peak in 2008
                                                                                      • Figure 13: Top ten claims across selected product categories, 2005-10*
                                                                                    • Top product claims 2005-10: Personal care
                                                                                      • Figure 14: Beauty and personal care top claims, 2005-10*
                                                                                    • Top product claims 2005-10: Food and drink
                                                                                      • Figure 15: Food and drink top claims, 2005-10*
                                                                                    • Top product claims 2005-10: Household and pet products
                                                                                      • Figure 16: Household and pet products top claims, 2005-10*
                                                                                    • Some product claims and packaging reflect larger market trends
                                                                                    • Nutrition Labeling Systems

                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                        • Kraft: Sensible Solutions
                                                                                          • Unilever: Choices
                                                                                            • American Beverage Association: Clear on Calories
                                                                                              • Smart Choices
                                                                                                • NuVal
                                                                                                  • Stop & Shop: Healthy ideas
                                                                                                    • Safeway: Eating Right
                                                                                                      • Hannaford Brothers: Guiding Stars
                                                                                                        • Supervalu: Nutrition iQ
                                                                                                        • Trust and Overall Ease of Use

                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                            • Trust with claims made by manufacturers remains an issue
                                                                                                              • Figure 17: Beliefs about accuracy of FOP claims, September-December 2008
                                                                                                            • But many consumers think that companies are making it easier
                                                                                                              • Figure 18: Trust and ease of use perceptions, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                          • Importance of Packaging Simplicity

                                                                                                            • Key point
                                                                                                              • Simplicity matters
                                                                                                                  • Figure 19: Importance of packaging simplicity and transparency, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                              • Importance of Serving Size Information

                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                  • Concept of serving sizes is confusing
                                                                                                                    • Figure 20: Beliefs about who determines serving sizes, September-December 2008
                                                                                                                  • Roughly 80% of shoppers view serving size and serving per container information as important
                                                                                                                    • Figure 21: Importance of serving size information, by gender, February 2010
                                                                                                                • Influence of Health Claims

                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                    • Health claim awareness is high but most want more clarification and proof of efficacy
                                                                                                                      • Figure 22: Health claims attitudes, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                    • Ingredient claims are especially important to consumers
                                                                                                                      • Figure 23: Influence of ingredient claims, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                    • Blacks and Hispanics somewhat more likely to be influenced by information sometimes found on FOP labels
                                                                                                                      • Figure 24: Influence of ingredient claims, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                    • Endorsements and general healthfulness somewhat harder to find and understand
                                                                                                                      • Figure 25: Ease of finding information on healthfulness, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                  • Importance and Ease of Interpreting Label Information

                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                      • Most view labels that help them avoid certain ingredients as important
                                                                                                                          • Figure 26: Importance of packaging ingredient information, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                        • Stories and emotional appeals much less influential
                                                                                                                          • Figure 27: Importance of company information and organization endorsements, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                      • Influence of Strength and Concentration Claims

                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                          • Low income consumers more often view extra strength claims as very important
                                                                                                                            • Figure 28: Strength and concentration claims attitudes, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                          • Blacks and Hispanics more often say that extra strength and concentrated claims are very important
                                                                                                                            • Figure 29: Strength and concentration claims attitudes, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                        • Influence of Natural, Organic, and Premium Claims

                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                            • All natural and organic labels somewhat less important than more common ingredient label claims
                                                                                                                              • Figure 30: Natural, organic and premium claims attitudes, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                          • Influence of Sustainability and Ethical Claims

                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                              • Nearly half view at least some eco-labels as at least somewhat influential
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Influence of sustainability claims, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                • Most willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly packaging
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Willingness to pay more for eco-friendly packaging, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                • Ethical claims less important than health and sustainability, but trending up
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 33: Influence of ethical claims, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                              • Influence of Price and Value-related Labels

                                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                                  • Value remains a key consideration for most
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 34: Price and value-related attitudes, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                                • Influence of Labels at Restaurants

                                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                                    • Most have seen nutritional information in restaurants and use it at least occasionally
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 35: Frequency of seeing nutrition information in restaurants, September-December 2008
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 36: Use of nutrition information when deciding what to eat at restaurants, September-December 2008
                                                                                                                                  • Appeal of Emotional Themes in Labeling

                                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                                      • Food and beverage
                                                                                                                                        • Young adults more likely to appreciate light-hearted themes
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 37: Appeal of lighthearted themes in food and beverage packaging, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                        • Plain/no-nonsense labels most preferable
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 38: Appeal of serious and premium themes in food and beverage packaging, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 39: Appeal of wholesome and inspiring themes in food and beverage packaging, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                                        • Personal care
                                                                                                                                          • Simplicity and seriousness tend to be most appealing as themes
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 40: Appeal of serious, premium and natural themes in personal care product packaging, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                          • Appeal of lighthearted themes
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 41: Appeal of lighthearted themes in personal care product packaging, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                        • Cluster Analysis

                                                                                                                                            • Theme-averse labelers
                                                                                                                                              • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                  • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                    • Environmentally stingy
                                                                                                                                                      • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                        • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                          • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                            • Easy readers
                                                                                                                                                              • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                                • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                                  • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                                    • Characteristic tables:
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 42: Label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 43: Grocery shopping “head of household,” by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 44: Price and value-related attitudes, by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 45: Health claims attitudes, by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 46: Ease of finding information on labels, by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 47: Willingness to pay more for eco-friendly packaging, by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 48: Importance of label information, packaging, and endorsements, by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 49: Appeal of various themes in food and beverage packaging, by label clusters, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                    • Demographic tables
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 50: Label clusters, by gender, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 51: Label clusters, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 52: Label clusters, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 53: Label clusters, by race, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 54: Label clusters, by Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                    • Cluster methodology
                                                                                                                                                                    • Custom Consumer Groups

                                                                                                                                                                      • Young adults and fathers are somewhat more likely to pay a premium for eco-friendly packaging
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 55: Willingness to pay a premium for eco-friendly packaging, by custom consumer group, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                        • Black and Hispanic under-45s and parents somewhat more trusting
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 56: Trust in and perceived clarity of labels, by custom consumer group, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                        • Women and affluents of all races/ethnicities more likely to view nutrition claims as important
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 57: Influence of ingredient claims, by custom consumer group, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                        • Importance of health-related claims increases with age among both men and women
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 58: Influence of ingredient claims, by gender and age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                          • Mission and thank you statements more likely to be cited as important by parents
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 59: Importance of labeling simplicity, company information and organization endorsements, by custom consumer group, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                            • Parents more likely to respond positively to emotional themes
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 60: Appeal of emotional themes in food and beverage packaging, by custom consumer group, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                            • Appendix: Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                                                                                                              • Household income-related behavior and attitudes
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 61: Influence of sustainability claims, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 62: Importance of packaging ingredient information, by household income, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                              • Age-related behavior and attitudes
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 63: Strength and concentration claims attitudes, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 64: Importance of company information and organization endorsements, by age, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                              • Gender-related behavior and attitudes
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 65: Importance of packaging ingredient information, by gender, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                              • Race/Hispanic origin-related behavior and attitudes
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 66: Health claims attitudes, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 67: Natural, organic and premium claims attitudes, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 68: Influence of sustainability claims, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 69: Ease of finding information about undesirable ingredients, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 70: Importance of company information and organization endorsements, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 71: Importance of packaging simplicity and transparency, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 72: Importance of serving size information, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2010
                                                                                                                                                                            • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                                              Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                                              • Albertsons Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                              • American Beverage Association, The
                                                                                                                                                                              • American Heart Association, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                              • American Medical Association (AMA)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Aseptic Packaging Council (APC)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Coca-Cola Company (The) (USA)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Dannon Co
                                                                                                                                                                              • Diamond Foods, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                              • Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                              • Federal Trade Commission
                                                                                                                                                                              • Food and Drug Administration
                                                                                                                                                                              • Greenfield Online
                                                                                                                                                                              • Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Institute of Medicine
                                                                                                                                                                              • Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP)
                                                                                                                                                                              • International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Kellogg Company
                                                                                                                                                                              • Kmart Corporation
                                                                                                                                                                              • Kraft Foods Inc. (U.S.A.)
                                                                                                                                                                              • National Academy of Sciences
                                                                                                                                                                              • Nestlé USA
                                                                                                                                                                              • Pepsi-Cola North America
                                                                                                                                                                              • Safeway Inc
                                                                                                                                                                              • Target Corporation
                                                                                                                                                                              • U.S. Department of Agriculture
                                                                                                                                                                              • Unilever USA
                                                                                                                                                                              • Walgreen Co
                                                                                                                                                                              • Walmart Stores (USA)
                                                                                                                                                                              • Weight Watchers International Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                              • Whole Foods Market Inc

                                                                                                                                                                              The Influence of Labels on Consumer Choice - US - May 2010

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