13 August 2008
Two in three (66%) global online consumers say they take notice of packaged goods labels containing nutritional information compared to two years ago but less than half of consumers (44%) claim to mostly understand what they’re reading – according to findings from an Internet survey on Food Labeling and Nutrition conducted in 51 countries, released today by The Nielsen Company.
According to the Nielsen survey, one in four (24%) global consumers said they always check nutritional info when buying packaged goods and more will do so when they are thinking about buying a product for the first time. In Asia Pacific, 68 percent of consumers say they take notice of the nutritional information on packaging more now than two years ago.
“Our survey findings clearly demonstrate the degree to which health and diet have taken a pivotal role in our lifestyles,” said Jennifer Wang, Director, The Nielsen Company Taiwan Ltd. “The need for clear and educational labeling has become one of the most debated and controversial topics in recent few years and the pressure is on the food industry to take greater responsibility for educating people about what they’re eating.,” said Ms. Wang.
North Americans lead the race in understanding food labeling. 67 percent of North American consumers claim to mostly understand food labels. For many shoppers in North America, scanning food labels on packaged goods when shopping appears to be second nature, and for savvy food manufacturers, nutritional labeling has become a powerful marketing tool.
Consumers in Asia Pacific have quickly caught up with the global food labeling trend in the past three years. In 2005, 21 percent said they will always check the nutritional information on the package when they buy packaged food, compared to 25 percent this time round. In the 2008 survey, 34 percent of Asians said they checked nutritional information when they’re thinking of buying a product for the first time and 27 percent said they checked when buying certain types of food.
One in three of Taiwanese consumers said they will always check food labels, up 9 percent from the result of 2005 survey. 62% claimed they take notice of the nutritional information on packaging more now than two years ago. Only 34% (+6%) said they mostly understand the nutritional information on the package.
“The development of supermarkets and the modern trade in emerging markets in the last 10 years has brought a plethora of new packaged products to consumers. As such, nutritional information on packaging serves to educate shoppers on what they are buying and eating. Our survey reveals that Taiwanese consumers need more easy-to-understand food labels,” said Ms. Wang.
Trying to lose weight seems to be a key motivation for consumers to check the nutritional labels, especially for Australians (24%) and Kiwis (20%) in Asia Pacific. Interestingly across Asia Pacific, only one in 10 said they would check food labels when they are buying for their children.
Across the region, seven percent of consumers in Asia Pacific said they never check the nutritional labels on the package, showing little improvement from three years ago when the same survey was conducted.
Consumers interested in the nutritional content of the foods they buy, and food manufacturers’ effort to provide more information is one thing. Understanding the labels is something else altogether. Globally, less than half of consumers - and less than a third in Asia Pacific - say they mostly understand the nutritional information on food packaging. The majority shows partial understanding of food labels. India, Australia and New Zealand are home to the most ‘conversant’ consumers in the region, with over half claiming to mostly understand food labels.
Fat, Calories and Preservatives: the three big “look-outs” for global consumers
Globally, it’s the fat content that drives nearly half of all consumers to check the labels on food packaging. 47 percent say they check food labels for fat, followed by calories (44%) and preservatives (42%). Interestingly, checking for preservatives has overtaken sugar (40%), indicating a shift in consumers’ concern from sugar to preservatives. This resonates with findings from another global survey conducted in 2007 by Nielsen on functional foods - according to a global Nielsen organic and functional food survey conducted in 2007, two in five (38%) global consumers considered a product with full sugar but no artificial flavours/ colours/ additives to be healthier than a product reduced in calories but with artificial substitutes. According to Nielsen LabelTrends, in the US, products which advertise ‘all natural’ ingredients are worth US$21.3B and grew 12 percent in the past year.
“The fat contents are always attention-getting for Taiwanese consumers. Due to recent news raising the negative impact of ‘trans-fat’ and ‘GI’, consumers start to check food labeling to see if there is any fat content. As a result, the percentage of checking Trans fat (+20%), Carbohydrates(+7%), Fat (+5%) and GI (+4%) is higher than the 2005 survey,” said Ms. Wang.
In Asia Pacific, consumer concern about Preservatives (51%) in food remains consistent with three years ago, while Additives have overtaken Fat Content as the second biggest reason for checking nutritional labels. Over four in 10 say they check food labels for each of Coloring, Fat and Calories. It’s worth noting that Indonesians and Thais are more worried about Preservatives, Additives and Coloring than their Asia Pacific counterparts.
“In the past five years there has been unprecedented coverage of health, diet and lifestyle issues in every kind of media. Never before have consumers been so obsessed with healthy living, and savvy marketers have realized that adding an element of ‘healthiness’ to any product is fundamental to sales success,” said Ms. Wang.
About The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey
The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Customized Research, was conducted in April 2008 among 28,253 internet users in 51 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and the Middle East. The largest half-yearly survey of its kind, the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Confidence and Opinion Survey provides insight into current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and the major concerns of consumers across the globe. The Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index is developed based on consumers’ confidence in the job market, status of their personal finances and readiness to spend.
About The Nielsen Company
The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions in marketing information (ACNielsen), media information (Nielsen Media Research), online intelligence (NetRatings and BuzzMetrics), mobile measurement, trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA. For more information, please visit, www.nielsen.com.
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