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Consumers want clarity in food labelling, says survey

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By Anna Bonar+

01-Sep-2014
Last updated on 01-Sep-2014 at 15:44 GMT

'Over 70% of survey respondents said that they are much more aware of their eating habits than they used to be, indicating that they are more likely to pay attention to what is in their food' said Ulrick & Short director
'Over 70% of survey respondents said that they are much more aware of their eating habits than they used to be, indicating that they are more likely to pay attention to what is in their food' said Ulrick & Short director

Consumers demand simpler labels and fewer additives, according to a new survey commissioned by a British-owned clean label ingredient specialist Ulrick & Short. 

The survey comes in light of the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) rules, which companies are expected to respond to from December this year. Under the new rules labels would be required to include nutrition information on processed foods,  origin labelling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry; highlight allergens; have better legibility i.e. minimum size of text.

Ulrick & Short asked 2000 consumers about their attitude towards labelling and food content and the results showed people feared the changes may lead to more complex labels.

“It is an assumption made by people who work in the food industry that everyone has sufficient knowledge on the subject and that it’s in the consumers’ interest. I don’t think if the public has been consulted enough,” Adrian Short, director at Ulrick & Short, told Food Navigator.

According to the survey, 75% of respondents stated they wanted simpler labelling, while around 45% avoided artificial additives such as E numbers in their shopping basket.

“Over 70% of survey respondents said that they are much more aware of their eating habits than they used to be, indicating that they are more likely to pay attention to what is in their food. FIC will actually add to the burden on food manufacturers, requiring them to include even more information on their packaging.

"There’s no better time to take a good look at making better use of clean label ingredients, not just for health or cost reasons but to clean up ingredient declarations and meet the demand from consumers for simpler, clearer labelling,” Short added.

Execution, not content

Short said he didn't necessarily disagree with the FIC list, but thought details should be easier to understand for the consumers.

“In an ideal world we would have consistency across all retail. Nowadays there are a lot of differences. For example there could be a consistent colour coding with supermarket shelves marked green, yellow and red depending on sugar or fat content,” said Short.

“That would add the pressure on food manufacturers to reformulate their products in order to reach the target colour.

“It is just a suggestion and it’s not ideal as for example. People choosing green could be reassured that they can eat lots of it, when in reality fat was replaced by carbohydrates and still shouldn’t be eaten excessively,” Short added.

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