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Simplified nutrient labelling: consumers’ perceptions in Germany and Belgium

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Growing consumer interest in food and health has motivated the European food industry to provide more simple information about the nutritional composition of foods. In addition to the traditional back-of-pack nutrition table, simplified front-of-pack labels have been introduced by the food industry to allow consumers making better informed and healthier food choices. In this study, consumers’ perceptions of simplified nutrition information, namely Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) and Traffic light (TL), in Germany and Belgium are explored. Consumer surveys in Germany (n = 147) and Belgium (n = 128) were conducted in 2008. Data were analysed by means of descriptive statistics and regression analysis. In both countries, the GDA is the most widely used simplified nutrition label. Whereas most consumers in Belgium indicate a preference for the GDA, in Germany the Traffic light is favoured most. Regression analyses indicate that the predilection for the different labels is affected by socio-demographic characteristics and perceptions towards the respective labels. European nutrition policy makers and food industries should be aware of cross-country differences regarding the perception of simplified nutrition labels. The challenge for both stakeholder groups is to raise awareness of the potential function of simplified labels in making informed and healthy food choices among European consumers.

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  1. Drichoutis et al. (2006a) develop a theoretical model of nutritional label use with reference to Stigler’s theory. The authors incorporate the time consumers spend on reading food labels as part of individual’s choice process and purchase behaviour. Additionally, the authors test their model empirically and identify profiles of consumers more likely to read food labels.

  2. Cases in point are portion sizes in the so-called Guideline Daily Amount labelling (detailed explanation is given in Sect. 3). E.g., information on food composition of potato chips is displayed with a portion size of 25 g (example is drawn from a German leading brand), inducing that the fat content is not as high as suggested by consumer protection organisations and other experts.

  3. Nutrition claims emphasize special food ingredients, whereas health claims deal with the impact of food on health. It has to bear in mind that despite nutrition claims do not predict a positive impact on health consumers perceive them like implicit health claims (Hartmann et al. 2008).


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The authors would like to thank students at the University of Giessen and Gent University for their assistance during data collection. Financial support for the Belgian study from the BOF (Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds Universiteit Gent, Research Fund Ghent University) is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Anke Möser.

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Möser, A., Hoefkens, C., Van Camp, J. et al. Simplified nutrient labelling: consumers’ perceptions in Germany and Belgium. J. Verbr. Lebensm. 5, 169–180 (2010).

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