The present research was an experimental test that aimed to quantify the impact of two dominant front-of-pack (FOP) nutritional label formats on consumer evaluations of food products that carried them. The two FOP label types tested were the traffic light label and the Percentage Daily Intake.
A 4×5 partially replicated Latin square design was used that allowed the impact of the FOP labels to be isolated from the effects of the product and the consumers who were performing the evaluations.
The experiment was conducted on campus at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
The participants were 250 university students selected at random who met qualifying criteria of independent living and regular purchase of the products used in the research. They were not aware of the purpose of the research.
The presence of FOP labels led to significant and positive changes in consumer purchase intentions towards the products that carried them. These changes were not affected by the nature of FOP labels used, their size or the product nutritional status (good/bad) that they were reporting.
The result is consistent with the participants paying attention to the FOP label and then using it as an adimensional cue indicating product desirability. As such, it represents a complete functional failure of both of these FOP label types in this specific instance. This result supports calls for further research on the performance of these FOP labels before any move to compulsory deployment is made.
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