Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Why Do We Read On-Pack Nutrition Information So Differently? A Typology of Reading Heuristics Based on Food Consumption Goals

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Why Do We Read On-Pack Nutrition Information So Differently? A Typology of Reading Heuristics Based on Food Consumption Goals

Article excerpt

While prior research has extensively studied nutrition labeling use and consumer errors of judgment in the nutrition evaluation process, less attention has been paid to the consumer motivations that simplify the reading of on-pack nutrition information. To address this gap. this study examines how food consumption goals affect consumer reading of this information. On the basis of a qualitative study, eight food consumption goals have been identified and classified into four types of motivations which impact reading behaviors: "Food Optimization," "Food Regulation," "Food Gratification," and "Food as Mere Necessity." From this typology, we derive eight on-pack nutrition information reading heuristics as well as specific inference biases resulting from these simplifying reading strategies. This research also provides guidelines for policymakers so that nutritional messages given to consumers will he more targeted in order to promote better reading of on-pack nutrition information at the point of sales.

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Because obesity and excess weight is considered today to be a worldwide epidemic (WEIO, Fact Sheet No. 311, March 2013), on-pack nutrition information has become a top priority for both the food industry and public authorities. Compulsory in many countries (such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia), this information tool has been set up to help consumers be better informed in making food choices and to assist them in maintaining healthy dietary practices (Souiden, Abdelaziz, and Fauconnier 2013). While increasing regulations concerning labeling may create tough constraints for companies who are positioning their products to appeal to the consumer's need for pleasure, on-pack nutrition information could become an effective communication tool for those food manufacturers whose focus is on nutrition innovation. Yet, no matter what the position or strategy of a company might be, nutrition information must first be read and understood by the consumers so that their decisions are well-founded whatever their food choices may be.

As a consequence of on-pack nutrition information overload, consumers, however, neither read nor use all the information that is made available to them (Grunert, Bolton, and Raats 2012; Grunert, Wills, and Fernandez-Celemm 2010). Instead, they apply simplifying shortcuts--called heuristics--to minimize judgment task difficulty (Andrews, Burton, and Kees 2011; Aydinoglu and Krishna 2011; Bettman, Luce, and Payne 1998; Dhami and Harries 2010; Scheibehenne, Miesler, and Todd 2007; Schulte-Mecklenbeck et al. 2013; Wansink, Just, and Payne 2009).

Although extensive research has been done to understand consumer misinterpretations and errors of judgment in the nutrition evaluation process (Andrews, Netemeyer, and Burton 1998; Chandon and Wansink 2007a, 2007b; Kozup, Creyer, and Burton 2003; Oakes and Slotterback 2005; Rozin, Ashmore, and Markwith 1996; Scott et al. 2008; Van Ittersum and Wansink 2012; Wansink and Chandon 2006), little work has been done to explore how consumers simplify the reading of on-pack nutrition information before product evaluation. This lack of interest may come from the fact that scholars generally assume that consumers exhibit homogenous needs, attitudes, and behaviors when exposed to nutritional information (Souiden, Abdelaziz, and Fauconnier 2013), whereas consumer food choices are actually guided both by multiple and conflicting goals which determine what information consumers will look for and how they will interpret it (Aakerand Lee 2001: Hausman 2012; Stroebe et al. 2008). This diversified range of food goals pursued by consumers implies the existence of multiple strategies in their reading of nutrition information and needs to be further explored by the literature. In this article, we address this gap by proposing a typology of on-pack nutrition information reading heuristics based on consumers' food consumption goals. …

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