Editor’s note: Jeremy King is CEO of consumer research platform Attest.
Making good choices when shopping for food and drink is a challenging task for Americans. The sheer range of products available can be overwhelming. Advertising is everywhere – we're bombarded with information, much of it confusing and contradictory. It's little wonder that as a nation we still consume so much food with high levels of sugar, fat and salt.
That isn't to say that Americans are unconcerned about making healthy choices when they purchase food and beverages. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the nation's consumers are very interested in health and wellness products in this category. The problem, however, is that many of them are unable to identify which ones are the best options – and which ones they should avoid.
Research conducted in February 2022 uncovered widespread confusion around labeling and the food and beverage category. Two thousand consumers were shown six varieties of cereal bars and asked to identify which was the healthiest choice. Just 9% of respondents selected the correct bar – and 13% selected the worst of the bunch. Misleading messaging was largely responsible for incorrect choices, with phrases such as “whole grains,” “naturally flavored” and “100 calories" misinterpreted by a significant number of participants.
With Congress planning to introduce the Food Labeling Modernization Act, which will require a standard front-of-package labeling system for all FDA-regulated food products, making good choices will hopefully become easier for Americans. But while the changes proposed by the bill are chiefly focused on improving the health of the nation, there is also much to learn for marketers about the effect that clear labeling has on consumer trust.
There is currently a widespread distrust of nutrition information presented on food packaging among Americans, even when ...