Consumers are still confused about food labelling, says new study

Despite the introduction of a standardised traffic light food labelling system in 2013, consumers want manufacturers, brand owners and retailers to provide more information on the food they're selling, with many consumers still confused and at risk of making poor choices around healthy eating.

Although three quarters (76%) of consumers claim to understand the traffic light food labelling system, the majority answered four out of five questions on the labelling system incorrectly. In addition to this, only 9% said they found it 'very easy' to find the information they needed on food products.

The research, carried out by YouGov and supported by The Marketing Trust, explores consumer and industry attitudes towards food labelling, covering awareness, comprehension, association, expectations, purchase decision-making and trust. In a clear sign that more needs to be done to improve consumer information and enable informed decisions, 83% of those working within the industry said they themselves have seen abuses of imagery or words on packaging to suggest a product is healthier than it is. In addition to this, more than a third (37%) of industry representatives believe that brands and retailers make it difficult for consumers to find the information they need on food and drink products.

Despite expecting the industry to provide clearer information, three quarters (77%) of consumers believe following a healthy and balanced diet is the responsibility of the individual and do not want further government legislation. This sentiment is echoed by industry professionals, with an overwhelming 85% believing that healthy living and improved diets would be best achieved by investing in consumer education and information as opposed to legislation.

Positively, three quarters (75%) of organisations said they have made healthy living and consumer behaviour change a clear and called-out marketing or corporate objective for 2014, and 43% of industry practitioners reported that their investment in consumer education initiatives increased in the last 12 months, with a further 57% stating that it would be increasing over the coming 12 months. However, many organisations are relying on traditional methods such as on-pack information and consumer-facing websites, despite the fact only 1% of consumers reported to trust brand owner websites as a source for information on nutrition and healthy eating.

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