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Nutrition information aims to reduce information asymmetries between manufacturers and consumers. To date, however, it remains unclear how nutrition information that is shown on the front of the packaging should be designed in order to increase both visual attention and the tendency to make healthful food choices. The present study aimed to address this gap in research.
An experimental laboratory study applying mobile eye-tracking technology manipulated the presence of two directive cues, i.e. health marks and traffic light colour-coding, as part of front-of-package nutrition information on actual food packages.
Participants wore mobile eye-tracking glasses during a simulated shopping trip. After the ostensible study had finished, they chose one snack (from an assortment of fifteen snacks) as a thank you for participation. All products were labelled with nutrition information according to the experimental condition.
Consumers (n 160) who were mainly responsible for grocery shopping in their household participated in the study.
The results showed that, in the absence of traffic light colouring, health marks reduced attention to the snack food packaging. This effect did not occur when the colouring was present. The combination of the two directive cues (v. presenting traffic light colours only) made consumers choose more healthful snacks, according to the nutrient profile.
Public policy makers may recommend retailers and manufacturers implement consistent front-of-pack nutrition labelling that contains both health marks and traffic light colouring as directive cues. The combination of the cues may increase the likelihood of healthful decision making.
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