St. Louis, MO, September 7, 2010 Food manufacturers advertise a variety of foods on grocery store shelves by using nutrient claims on the front of packaging. A study in the September/October issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior evaluates how consumers are interpreting certain carbohydrate-related content claims and the effects of claims on consumer perceptions of food products. Findings from this study reveal that consumers misinterpret low carbohydrate claims to have health benefits and weight loss qualities beyond their nutrition facts.
In the early 2000s, low-carbohydrate claims gained huge popularity in response to such books as Dr. Atkin's New Diet Revolution and The South Beach Diet. In a study published in AC Nielsen Consumer Insights, it was noted that there was a 516% sales increase in low-carbohydrate food products from 2001 to 2005 showing that front of package claims can play a large part in consumer decisions.
Existing research suggests that consumers are less likely to turn to the back of a package to look at the Nutrition Facts panel when there is a claim on the front of the package. In the new study, researchers at the United States Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition sought to determine whether low-carbohydrate claims might lead consumers to perceive products to have benefits that are not necessarily related to being low in carbohydrate. Using an online questionnaire, 4,320 consumer panelists rated products for their perceived healthfulness, helpfulness for weight management, and caloric content based on front-of-package-only conditions (nutrition claims versus no nutrition claims) and availability of Nutrition Facts panels.
This study documents that in the absence of Nutrition Facts panels, "low-carbohydrate claims led to more favorable perceptions about products' helpfulness for weight management, healthfulness, and caloric content. Because an indivi
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Elsevier Health Sciences