Impact on food buying habits by new voluntary food labelling system

Bill Bruce26 Jun 2013

New research from business and financial advisory firm Grant Thornton UK has revealed that the UK government's new food nutritional labelling system is likely to influence consumer buying behaviour.

Over three quarters (76%) of those polled said that a government-endorsed front-of-pack nutritional label would potentially influence them to buy fewer products with a high fat, calorie, salt or sugar content.

Under the new government scheme, front-of-packet labels will combine the energy value, nutritional information on fat, saturates, salt and sugar, and traffic light colour-coding, which relates to a person's 'reference intakes' (formerly known as Guideline Daily Amounts), including the option to use the words 'high', 'medium' or 'low' relating to those.

Currently, there are a variety of labelling systems and it has been argued that this has led to a confused and inconsistent nutrition labelling system, which insufficiently supports the government's health agenda.

The survey of 1,000 UK consumers was commissioned by Grant Thornton UK ahead of the official unveiling of the scheme in June 2013. The findings also revealed that over half of respondents (54%) would prefer a government-endorsed front-of-pack food nutritional labelling scheme over one chosen by food companies and retailers.

Consumers aged 55 and over were least likely to be influenced in their buying patterns by a government-endorsed front-of-pack nutritional label. Nearly a third (30%) said it wouldn't influence them to buy fewer 'unhealthy' products, compared to just 18% of 25-34-year-olds.

Grant Thornton UK director Scott Wilson said: "While not every food category will see the same impact on consumer buying behaviour as a result of the new food labelling system, businesses in the food and beverage sector will need to pay close attention and be ready to react if consumers do start to adjust their buying habits.

"The changes could also have important ramifications for how businesses develop future products and how these are marketed, so it's really important that businesses in the food and beverage sector take the time to assess this as part of their plans for growth."