The combined effect of front-of-pack nutrition labels and health claims on consumers' evaluation of food products
The majority of studies examining the effect of nutrition information on food packets (such as the nutrition information panel (NIP), front-of-pack labels (FoPLs) and health claims) have examined each in isolation, even though they often occur together. This study investigated the relationship between FoPLs and health claims since (i) they both appear on the front of packs and typically receive more attention from consumers than the NIP, (ii) they can convey contradictory messages (i.e., health claims provide information on nutrients that are beneficial to health while FoPLs provide information on nutrients associated with increased health risks) and (iii) there is currently scant research on how consumers trade off between these two sources of information. Ten focus groups (n = 85) explored adults' and children's reactions when presented with both a FoPL (the Daily Intake Guide, Multiple Traffic Lights, or the Health Star Rating) and a health claim (nutrient content, general-level-, or high-level). A particular focus was participants' processing of discrepant information. Participants reported that health claims were more likely to be considered during product evaluations if they were perceived to be trustworthy, relevant and informative. Trust and ease of interpretation were most important for FoPLs, which were more likely than health claims to meet criteria and be considered during product evaluation (especially the Health Star Rating and Multiple Traffic Lights). Results indicate that consumers generally find FoPLs more useful than health claims.