SA Food Labels

How Consumers View Labels on Food Products

Food manufactures throughout South Africa are well aware of the legislative regulations regarding food labelling, with a hefty amount of business spend going towards compliance. When all is said and done (and spent) what impact do your product labels have on consumer spending?

We wanted to know the answer too, so we conducted an independent food labelling survey to find out

  • Which product labels matter most to consumers? And
  • What information on food labels concern consumers the most?

Food Labelling Survey Results

Food Labelling Survey Methodology

Through shopping isle interception as a means to gather insights from a real cross-section typical grocery buyers, our sample comprised 83 respondents, 86% females and 14% males. Their ages range from 18-50 years old, of which the majority are 35-49 years of age. 89% of our respondents are black consumers; 67% are employed on either full-or part-time; and 74% range between LSMs 5-7.

All of the respondents said that they read the labels on food packaging. Most read labels on personal care products, but only 42% give the labels on household cleaning products a gander.

Trust in the integrity of Food Labels

Despite regulations imposed on the industry, not all of the consumers surveyed trust the information on labels. 14% do not trust the information at all, and only 22% believe the labels are completely honest. More than 60% think that labels are quite reliable and “reflect most of the ingredients” indicating that consumers still question whether or not all of the ingredients in their food are declared on the labels.

Which Food Labels Do Consumers Read (and what do they look at most)?

These are the most read labels:

  • 86% – Dairy
  • 69% – Over-the-counter (OTC) medication
  • 67% – Canned foods
  • 66% – Vitamins
  • 60% – Breakfast foods
  • 59% – Bread
  • 50% – Condiments

Although baby food and baby products only showed a read rate of 38% and 37% respectively, it must be noted that this figure is influenced by the number of parents in our sample group. Almost 80% of those who purchase these items expressed that they are “extremely concerned” about the contents of baby food and products. The same holds true to those who purchase OTC meds.

Food Label information that attracts the most attention.

“When asked if nutritional food label information plays a role in consumer purchases, 50% agreed, and 15% strongly agreed”.

Product labels contain a great deal of information, for this reason (and not surprisingly) consumers tend to only focus on specific points of interest.
We asked consumers to rate various food label elements according to importance. The options were extremely; quite; very; or not important.

Here’s what consumers rated “of extreme importance” on food labels:

  1. Best before dates are the most critical part of food label information at 80%
  2. Warnings for allergens and diabetics, 56%
  3. Manufacturer’s name, 40%
  4. Nutritional value, 38%.

When looking at the overall mean score of data collected, nutritional value came in very high with a score of 4.15 out of 5, illustrating that consumers are generally interested in what the product contains, and if their health and nutrition needs will be met. Consumers agree (with a mean score of four out of five) that information on food labels helps them to make healthier choices. When asked if nutritional food label information plays a role in consumer purchases, 50% agreed, and 15% strongly agreed.

Interesting food label insights

Packaging design

One concerning realisation from the survey is that 65% of consumers stated, “[they] do not have time to read labels”. This information will definitely be useful in designing new product labels – we suspect that well-designed food labels which can easily be scanned will perform better.

Salt and sugar content

While many consumers feel labels help them make informed health decisions, not as much attention is paid to salt and sugar content of foods at this stage. However, with changes to laws surrounding these ingredients, this trend may shift as time progresses.

Trend spotters

Shifting in trends are one of the main reasons why products should continuously review their formulation and and product formulation. Market research is an essential component of such reviews and will help insight managers to make decisions to improve product performance.

We very much enjoyed conducting the food labelling survey and sharing our insights. Of course, this survey is by no means exhaustive –but a taste of how Market Research can help you to boost sales by making your products appealing to consumers.

Related Tag: Product Testing