Color-coded nutrition labels help consumers make healthier choices

A recent meta-analysis of 118 found that nutrition labels food encourage people to buy healthier foods.

The studies, which were conducted in the last 30 years, looked at packaged foods that either contained a color-coded label (traffic light system) that indicate nutrition, or a warning label that communicates unhealthy ingredients in the product.

To date, studies of these labelling systems have shown mixed results. This meta-analysis found that both the color-coded and warning label systems in fact lead consumers to make healthier choices. More specifically, consumers are nudged towards foods and drinks with lower overall calories, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.

So which of the two labelling styles was most effective?

The color-coded labels were more effective in promoting healthful food products. On the other hand, warning labels were more effective in discouraging unhealthy food products. In other words, both labelling systems were effective in leading consumers to overall healthier choices.

Compared to the control condition, both labels successfully drew consumers’ attention and improved understanding of the nutritional information of the product. The labels also influenced participants’ perceived healthfulness, recommended consumption amount, and frequency of consumption for those products.

However, some limitations of these studies need to be considered. Firstly, only short-term effects of the labels were measured. There is no data about whether consumers would make the same healthy choices a second time.

More importantly, the majority of the studies (95%) were conducted in a laboratory setting, not the real world. Real-life nudging studies, like the one we conducted in collaboration with supermarket Hoogvliet, would need to take place to see whether these effects are present in real-life shopping situations.

Read more here.

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