Consumer perceptions of nutrient content claims in Australia: A qualitative study
Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics
Background: Nutrition and health claims influence consumer purchasing. Claims include content claims, which refer to the amount of a nutrient contained in a product, and health claims, which refer to health benefits of foods or nutrients in a product. Products that display a health claim must meet the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC). The present study aimed to explore consumer perceptions of content claims used on food and beverage labelling and advertisements. Methods: Semi-structured focus groups were conducted with Australian consumers. Analysis involved an inductive, reflexive approach to thematic analysis. Results: Six focus groups involving 26 participants were conducted. Four main interconnected themes were generated: (1) complex factors influence food choice; (2) content claim scepticism; (3) the difference between content and health claims is unclear; and (4) the regulation of content claims is not common knowledge. Content claims were used, although generally viewed through a lens of scepticism and mistrust, and seen as a promotional tool for the food industry. Product complexity appeared to increase content claim use as a result of consumer uncertainty of the content of complex products, such as ultraprocessed foods. Most participants were aware that content and health claims were in some way regulated. Overall, they did not know further detail, including the relevant regulatory body. Conclusions: For content claims to support the consumer they need to be accurate and their use limited to healthier foods. This can be achieved by requiring products with content claims to meet NPSC thresholds, as required for products making health claims.
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Cancer Council NSW