structure, personal beliefs, health conditions, food safety and freshness concerns, as well as diet and weight management programs.
When asked to rank a number of influences on why they might consult package labels, we find that health, curiosity about “what’s in”
food, weight management, freshness concerns and worries about
ingredient origins are the top drivers (Figure 1).
the nutrition facts panel with variations in product properties (e.g., total
calories) in relation to serving size
that vary by product type, brand or
What Are Customers Looking at on a Label?
With consumers paying closer attention to labels, how might
“W“What consumers look for on package labels
manufacturers make life easier for consumers in their attempts to
varies depending on the lens through which they
approach a product.”
sort through the myriad of statements, claims, symbols and printed
information found on packaging? Our research finds that among
the many different components found on a typical food or beverage
package label, the most important “parts of a package” consumers
look at are the nutrition facts panel, the ingredient list and the expiration (freshness) date.
Consumer desire for higher quality products is emerging as the
macro trend of the 21st century with implications extending well
beyond the foreseeable future. An integral part of this is the shift
toward higher freshness standards. Among 16 different package
components tested, the first and third most frequently examined
label elements relate to freshness.
The majority of American consumers ( 60 percent) “always” look
for expiration dates, while close to half of consumers ( 49 percent)
“always” look at the freshness or “made on” date. Sandwiched
between these, the nutrition facts panel is the second most frequently examined label component: 50 percent of consumers “always”
check nutrition facts panels. The other most frequently examined
label component is the ingredients list, which 47 percent of consumers “always” examine (Figure 2).
Within these categories, some of the comments from consumers
have to do not only with actual ingredient content, but the readability of the label. Frustrations included difficulty reading the small-print ingredient list or locating the often-elusive freshness date on a
Another area of frustration was trying to decipher elements of
Familiarity, Trust and
Understanding of Symbols
In the “Label Reading from a
Consumer Perspective” report, consumers’ levels of awareness, trust and
understanding were examined for 13
different ethical, sustainable and
dietary-related symbols and icons in
use in today’s marketplace.
One icon stood out
from all others tested: the
“Heart Check” symbol.
Given the prevalence of
heart disease in the population combined with long-term and widespread marketing of the organization’s
work, it is little wonder that
64 percent of consumers
say they have seen the symbol and understand it. Half
of consumers trust the
AHA symbol. The second
most familiar 1symbol
among consumers is the
USDA Organic seal. Forty-
three percent of consumers say they
have seen it “a lot.” Ranking third,
after organic, is the symbol for recycling plastic.
Figure 2. Top Four “Always Read” Elements of a Label
Source: 2007 Hartman Group Label Reading Survey, (n= 747 consumers).
How Consumers Evaluate Labels
We see that what consumers look
for on package labels varies depend-
ing on the lens through which they
approach a product, such as diet
needs (i.e., wheat allergies, lactose
intolerance), diet choices (i.e., low-
carb diet), and their overall involve-
ment with wellness (consumers of
organic products largely enter the
World of Organics through wellness).
Within the World of Wellness,
Core, Mid-Level and Periphery con-