If They Print It, Will They Read It?   American’s Need for Food Labels

food labelsConsumers all around the world are paying closer attention to what they eat every day. This already becomes apparent in the supermarket: more than half of all Europeans (53 percent) and 64 percent of US-Americans take a critical look at the food and beverage labels before they put them in their shopping trolley.

When looking at a label, consumers do not evaluate every component of a product individually. Especially when the given information is excessive and hard to understand, they resort to a method of elimination and scan the label for certain ingredients they personally avoid. If they discover them among the contents, the product is put back onto the shelves.

Natural ingredients play a significant role in purchasing food and beverages. 68 percent of all consumers state that they usually choose the healthier product option in the supermarket. In order to make a substantiated purchasing decision, however, they depend on easy to understand product information: for 67 percent of all consumers worldwide, comprehensible details on ingredients and additives determine the choice of food and drinks. They wish for short ingredient lists whose components they know and understand.

Additionally, a majority of Americans want the U.S. government to require nutrition labels on food packaging, including people who do not read them.

The government has delayed the introduction of mandatory labeling of sugars added to packaged food and use of genetically-engineered ingredients, marking a change from the Obama administration and a victory for food companies which lobbied against them as too costly and confusing for consumers.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration proposed giving manufacturers an extra 1-1/2 years to comply with new nutrition facts label requirements, drawing criticism from nutritionists.  The results of the poll underscore that transparency is key for consumers, a fact that is becoming more apparent to food manufacturers.

Eighty-four percent of adults agreed that “the government should require nutrition information labels on all packaged food sold in grocery stores” and 64 percent wanted similar requirements for restaurants, according to the poll.  Most people wanted those labels even though relatively few said they read them. Only 13 percent said they “always” read the nutrition facts when deciding to buy a product.

Poll respondents who were curious about nutrition information were mostly interested in how it could affect their waistlines. Sixty percent or more said they wanted to know about sugar, calories, salt and fat content in packaged food.   For some, it’s a matter of trying to follow a doctor’s orders.

Less than half of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for foods that are organic, grass-fed or contain no added sugars or genetically-engineered ingredients. The item the majority of Americans would consider paying more for is locally-grown food, at 57 percent.

The poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States from July 8 to July 17. It included responses from 3,024 adults and has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2 percentage points.