‘Serving Size’ Frustrates Consumers

Articles
April 30, 2010

‘Serving Size’ Frustrates Consumers

Practically every food shopper in America notices the ‘serving size’ information on packages (99%), but a mere 8% consider it to be realistic most of the time.

Practically every food shopper in America notices the ‘serving size’ information on packages (99%), but a mere 8% consider it to be realistic most of the time.

This stark contrast found in an exclusive national consumer survey by The Lempert Report underscores a widespread frustration with this element of food packaging.  A nation of shoppers that is trying to curtail intake of calories, fat, sodium, sugars and expense overwhelmingly feels the presentation of ‘serving size’ information fails to provide the clarity or helpful direction that people require to eat smarter.

‘Serving size’ is just one element of the nutrition facts panel. But everything else listed in the panel cascades from it. Serving size is the setup for calories, fats and more, so CPG manufacturers opt for serving sizes that portray their product in a favorable light that seems feasible for some customers. 

However, CPG misses by a lot. According to our survey, only half of consumers eat the ‘serving size’ amount ‘sometimes’ (53%). Fewer than one-quarter (23%) eat it ‘often,’ the same amount who eat it ‘never.’ 

Moreover, 92% of consumers say they find it hard to relate what they do eat to the printed ‘serving size’ on the package. A large plurality (48%) say this occurs ‘often/always,’ which in turn makes it less relevant and less meaningful to consumers.

Nearly eight in ten consumers (78%) are so frustrated that they state the ‘serving size’ labeling information needs to be clearer. Only one in ten (11%) think it is ‘fine the way it is.’

We asked if ‘serving size’ information reflected an entire package, how might it change consumption behavior? A majority (52%) say they would ‘eat less and practice their own portion control. Some 30% say they ‘might not eat that particular item, but would compare labels to find a better option.’

There may not be a perfect solution to ‘serving size.’ But we believe consumers would feel more confident of good intent by CPG manufacturers not to mislead if serving sizes were realistic and calculations were simpler, with fewer odd fractions to compute.