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Nutrition-related claims on children's cereals: what do they mean to parents and do they influence willingness to buy?

  • Jennifer L Harris (a1), Jacqueline M Thompson (a1), Marlene B Schwartz (a1) and Kelly D Brownell (a1)
Abstract
AbstractObjective

To examine parents’ beliefs about the meaning of common front-of-package nutrition-related claims on children's cereals and determine whether the claims would make them more willing to buy the cereals.

Design

Parents viewed images of box fronts for children's cereals of below-average nutritional quality, as assessed by a validated nutrient profiling model. These boxes featured various nutrition-related claims including ‘supports your child's immunity’, ‘whole grain’, ‘fibre’, ‘calcium and vitamin D’ and ‘organic’. Participants were provided possible meanings for these claims and asked to select any that applied with the option to write in additional meanings. They also indicated how the claim would affect their willingness to buy the product.

Setting

Online survey.

Subjects

Parents with children between the ages of 2 and 11 years (n 306) recruited through an online panel.

Results

The majority of parents misinterpreted the meaning of claims commonly used on children's cereals. They inferred that cereals with claims were more nutritious overall and might provide specific health-related benefits for their children; and these beliefs predicted greater willingness to buy the cereals.

Conclusions

These findings indicate that common front-of-package nutrition-related claims are potentially misleading, especially when placed on products with high levels of nutrients to limit (e.g. sugar, sodium) and low levels of other nutrients to encourage (e.g. fibre, protein). Additional regulation is needed to protect consumers in the USA.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email Jennifer.harris@yale.edu
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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
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