Can front-of-pack labelling schemes guide healthier food choices? Australian shoppers' responses to seven labelling formats
There is evidence that easily accessible, comprehensible and consistent nutrient information on the front of packaged foods could assist shoppers to make healthier food choices. This study used an online questionnaire of 4357 grocery shoppers to examine Australian shoppers' ability to use a range of front-of-pack labels to identify healthier food products. Seven different front-of-pack labelling schemes comprising variants of the Traffic Light labelling scheme and the Percentage Daily Intake scheme, and a star rating scheme, were applied to nine pairs of commonly purchased food products. Participants could also access a nutrition information panel for each product. Participants were able to identify the healthier product in each comparison over 80% of the time using any of the five schemes that provided information on multiple nutrients. No individual scheme performed significantly better in terms of shoppers' ability to determine the healthier product, shopper reliance on the 'back-of-pack' nutrition information panel, and speed of use. The scheme that provided information about energy only and a scheme with limited numerical information of nutrient type or content performed poorly, as did the nutrition information panel alone (control). Further consumer testing is necessary to determine the optimal format and content of an interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme.