Energy Profiles and Nutrition Information in Food Product Categories Selected in Finnish Grocery Stores, Considered from a Weight Management Perspective

By Saarela, Anna-Maria; Keinänen, Anja-Riitta et al. | Journal of Research for Consumers, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Energy Profiles and Nutrition Information in Food Product Categories Selected in Finnish Grocery Stores, Considered from a Weight Management Perspective


Saarela, Anna-Maria, Keinänen, Anja-Riitta, Rissanen, Riitta L., Journal of Research for Consumers


ABSTRACT:

It is important to show in practice how challenging an environment a grocery store is to consumers from a weight management perspective. This paper reveals the variation in energy content of products within a product category, in relation to selections made by those consumers actively engaged in weight management. It also shows several non-standardized ways of displaying products' nutritional information, as well as the study subjects' opinions about package labeling. For a consumer, it is important to be able to easily find, identify and compare suitable products from a weight management point of view. Successful consumer marketing will achieve desirable results for manufacturers, retailers and consumers, as well as being of benefit to society's welfare in the long run.

Introduction

Globally, there are about 1.5 billion people who are overweight and more than 500 million people who are significantly obese. Obesity rates in the United States are the highest in the world (WHO 2008). Obesity is debilitating, reducing the quality of life and the ability to work as it increases the risk of contracting another disease.

The food industry produces a bewildering array of products for the consumer to buy all over the world. Grocery stores everywhere present a challenging environment in which to find suitable products, because of the enormous variety of goods and the variation in packaging and labeling. A particular problem is the variation of energy contents found between items within certain product categories. (Drichoutis, Lazaridis and Nayga 2006; Oppewal and Koelemeijer 2005; Mantrala, Levy, Kahn, Fox, Gaidarey, Dankworth and Shah 2009; Colby, Johnson, Scheett and Hoverson 2010; Lempert 2002)

The number of food products available from grocery stores varies from shop to shop (Mantrala et al. 2009). The number of items in a product category plays an important role in how consumers think about complex shopping decisions (Lempert 2002; Dellaert, Arentze and Timmermans 2008; Boyed and Bahn 2009). The relationship between the choice of food by consumers and their lifestyles, is a complicated phenomenon, affected by several factors including their personal needs (Shepherd and Raats 2006; Perez-Cueto, Verbeke, de Barcellos, Kehagia, Chryssochoidis, Scholderer and Grunert 2010). The individual nature of this food selection process (Shepherd and Raats 2006; Levy and Weitz 2011) is a real challenge to quantify, and a driving force for product developers within the food industry and for retailers within the food product and services development industry (Mantrala et al. 2009; Boyd and Bahn 2009).

Manufacturers produce a wide selection of products to fulfill the conscious and subconscious needs of consumers. For example, nowadays, there is an enormous variety of types of milks (Fineli 2011). These variations in milk are due to differing concentrations in several nutrients-such as: fat, proteins, lactose, vitamins, etc. These kinds of variations can be seen in other product categories too. Therefore, it is not a simple task for a consumer to know both what choice to make from all the alternatives when they have limited time (van Herpen and van Trijp 2011), and also how much energy products may contain (Grunert, Willis and Fernández-Celemín 2010). Consumers often choose products routinely (Ekström 2010) as this is the quickest way. Therefore, the time spent reading the labels on food packaging is almost nil (Grunert and Willis 2007; Grunert et al. 2010; Storcksdieck genannt Bonsmann, Celemin, Larranaga, Egger, Willis, Hodgkins and Raats 2010).

According to Paradis and Cabanac (2008), people actively dieting and trying to maintain their normal body weight choose high-calorie products more easily and subconsciously than those consumers passively managing their weight. A study by Raynor, Van Walleghen, Bachman, Looney, Phelan and Wing (2011) showed a positive relationship between dietary energy density and body mass index and suggested that consuming a diet with lower energy density may aid with the maintenance of weight loss. …

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