Shoppers want straight talk about products

January 12, 2011

Do claims on food packages help or hurt product sales? Our Quick Poll results tell a tale of consumer confusion.

Shoppers need and want simplification in the food store – where they’re already challenged by 50,000 SKUs that don’t stay in the same place, and by fluctuating everyday prices and promotions that keep changing the value quotient.

So once shoppers think they find the item they want, do they expect or appreciate being frozen again by health and marketing claims on packages? No, they don’t. Indeed, consumers find claims confusing to the point that 27% of panelists in our exclusive national quick poll say they ignore them. Which frustrate them most? More than half cited ‘all natural’ as a culprit, 34% noted ‘brain development,’ 32% ‘improving stamina,’ and 29% ‘boosts immunity.’

How stultifying is this to sales? A full one-third of panelists (33%) say they make no purchase when they are confused. Another 28% seek a close alternative, and 10% seek more information on their cell phones or smart phones. This is a major issue for retailers whose center-stores have plateaued and have become a blur of so many store choices that shoppers have. The Lempert Report sees this as a great risk to trips and basket size, as long as package claims are left to run wild.

On the other hand, retailers that engage CPG suppliers in meaningful discussion about the positive effects of clarity on item, line, brand, category and store sales could differentiate themselves to shoppers in meaningful ways. At the very least, we suggest that retailers take a lesson from this CPG confusion and see if simpler labels can help create an upturn in private label sales.

This doesn’t mean abandoning all claims. It does mean sticking with claims that people seem to understand and drive purchases. Top on this list: ‘whole grains,’ cited by 42% of panelists, and to a lesser extent, ‘all natural,’ named by 28% – or about half the number that consider that claim confusing. Other popular claims: ‘high in antioxidants’ and ‘heart healthy.’