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Food labels – an exploratory study into label information and what consumers see and understand

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The food industry develops tasty and healthy food but fails to deliver the message to all consumers. The consumers’ background knowledge is essential for how they find and decode relevant elements in the cocktail of signs which fight for attention on food labels. In this exploratory study, we find evidence for dividing consumers into two profiles: one relying on general food knowledge and another using knowledge related to signpost labels. In a combined eyetracking and questionnaire survey we analyse the influence of background knowledge and identify different patterns of visual attention for the two consumer profiles. This underlines the complexity in choosing and designing the ‘right’ elements for a food package that consumers actually look at and are able to make rational use of. In spite of any regulation of food information provided by authorities, consumers will still be confronted with information which puzzles them. Given that the notion of being mislead must refer to information printed on the packaging and which has actually caught the given consumer's visual attention, this exploratory study intends to pave the way for using eyetracking tools to better understand the link between regulations, package information, and consumer understanding. Implications and further research are discussed.

Keywords: consumer knowledge; eyetracking; food labelling; signpost labels

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of International Culture and Communication Studies,Copenhagen Business School, Dalgas Have 15Frederiksberg,2000, Denmark 2: Department of Marketing,Copenhagen Business School, Solbjerg Plads 3CFrederiksberg,2000, Denmark 3: Center for Statistics,Copenhagen Business School, Solbjerg Plads 3Frederiksberg,2000, Denmark

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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