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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Nutrition labels get more attention

by Hilary Oliver

Two-thirds of U.S. consumers said they look at nutrition labels on food packaging more often than they did two years ago, according to New York-based market-research company Nielsen. That's probably good news for consumers' health, but it could also be a boon for food manufacturers.

"Given that so many consumers are taking time to read nutrition labels, there is also a marketing opportunity for food manufacturers to provide consumer-friendly information on labels that may entice shoppers to switch brands at the point of purchase," said Deepak Varma, senior vice president of Nielsen Customized Research. "Food marketers can make relatively low investments in pack and labeling changes compared to advertising and promotions, and drive significant sales."

The online global survey found that less than a quarter of U.S. consumers always check the nutritional information on food labels, but nearly half check when thinking of buying a product for the first time and 25 percent check nutritional information when they're trying to lose weight. Eight percent reported never checking nutritional information.

About the same percentage of shoppers who said they read labels more often also claimed that they are able to interpret those labels, saying they "mostly understand the nutritional information on food packaging," while 67 percent said they understand the difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat.

More than half of U.S. respondents said they always check the fat content on labels, and nearly half check for calories, sugar and trans fats. Only 25 percent of U.S. consumers check food labels for preservatives, while almost half of the global respondents said they do.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 1

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