Nutrition Facts: importance varies by category

May 02, 2011

Are consumers more stringent label readers depending on the product? Find out what the consumer panel had to say.

Reading food labels is an important step in choosing foods that are right for each individual; but this crucial step is still a challenge - whether it’s actually getting individuals to read the label, let alone understand what’s on the label.  In an exclusive SupermarketGuru Quick Poll, The Lempert Report set out to understand if consumers actually read labels when shopping for certain foods and how their label reading habits differed between categories.  Are consumers more lenient with some foods over others? See what the consumer panel had to say. 
A large majority, nearly seventy percent of the consumer panel, say they always read the package for nutrition facts and ingredients when food shopping; the balance, thirty percent say they sometimes do. 
In beverages, consumers are most concerned with sugars (65%), calories (61%) and ingredients (61%).  
In cakes and desserts it’s calories (64%), ingredients (63%) then fats and sugars- both sixty percent. 
When shopping for condiments and sauces, the biggest concern is ingredients (66%), followed by sodium (61%), sugars (54%), and calories and fat at forty three percent. 
What about dairy?  Fat is the main concern of consumers at sixty four percent, followed by ingredients (52%), and calories (50%).
Heading over to the freezer aisle, it looks like more consumers take the time to read up on frozen entrees and meals, seventy percent look out for ingredients and sodium, while calories concern sixty five percent followed by, fat (61%) and sugar (42%).
Consumers seem to be a little more lenient in the meat department.  Forty eight percent take a look at fat content, forty five percent look at ingredients followed by sodium (32%); surprisingly, 14 percent don't read labels in the meat department (guess they have forgotten about plumping!) 
In snack foods, calories, sodium, fat, ingredients, and sugar are all concerns of more than two thirds of respondents. 
It looks like the consumer panel is definitely taking the time to read labels, and has different concerns in different parts of the store. It is crucial to understand these concerns when formulating new products as well as reformulating existing ones. 
To add a little more insight into the findings, the Lempert Report asked the SupermarketGuru fans on Facebook if they always read the nutrition facts panel, and if they noticed that they were more lenient with some foods over others.  Virginia Lee says she has “been reading food labels since before they had much decent information back in the early '80s after my dad had a heart attack and we were trying to figure out sodium levels in everything. It's so much easier now.”  And Jennifer Kupper Swan says, “I always read nutrition facts and ingredients. If allergies don't rule it out, then I look twice at the ingredients - I tend to re-shelve the products that need a chemistry degree to figure out. My kids are allowed a certain amount of "junk" food…but it's minimal compared to what others allow. Life isn't perfect, but I try.”
We are clearly headed in the right direction as an industry, but need to continue our efforts to make consumers smarter and healthier shoppers.