Changes in social habits and increased legislation obviously have a big impact on the labeling of consumer goods. It is particularly apparent in the groceries and food sectors. Over the years the amount of information about ingredients and nutritional values displayed on labels has greatly increased. This is partly due to various international laws, but nowadays many more people have a genuine interest in knowing more about the food they eat and where it comes from.
This trend prompted IGD, a London based food and grocery retail specialist, to see how it affected British shoppers. It found that nearly one third of the 1,000 supermarket shoppers surveyed said their buying decisions were influenced by what a product contains, which in turn depended on how well they could access this information. Somehow this sounds unrealistically low, but at least the response is 5 percent higher that it was three years ago.
The desire for more information follows a recent spate of health scares concerning the global spread of viral infections of livestock and poultry that might — or might not — be transmitted to humans. Media hype and just bad science are given as reasons for these scares, although many feel they are irrational. Growing disquiet about food processing methods is also encouraging consumer interest in more detailed labeling. The various effects of intensive farming, or agribusiness, is another cause of concern. It has led to rising consumption of organically produced grocery products. Despite higher prices, IGD’s feedback suggests a doubling in the number of UK consumers who seek out organic products since 2004. However, it represents only 11 percent of respondents. Price remains the most important driver in other areas, but its importance is falling at the expense of a rising awareness of salt and sugar content and their effects on a person’s well being. A fifth of shoppers surveyed now say that these ingredients have become a key consideration in what they buy.
On the overall results of the survey, Julie Starck, IGD’s senior consumer insight analyst, says: “Enhanced awareness of nutritional value and an aging population concerned about health and well being mean we can expect the trend to continue. Shoppers are becoming more engaged with their food and make decisions based on greater levels of detail.”
On a practical level, this factor obviously effects the appearance and demand for primary and secondary labeling. Combining typographically messy bits of information with the all-important graphics associated with the product name is a difficult but important task. Brand name recognition among shoppers has become even more important. “While price and value for money remain important for finalizing purchasing decisions, the primary factors are more likely to be the familiarity of a brand name, knowing all of the ingredients of a product and the country of origin,” concludes Starck.