Shopper reading product label

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It’s apparent we are not making it easy for consumers to make healthy and/or informed decisions

New rules governing the placement and promotion of HFSS foods are looming, as the government moves to improve diets and reduce children’s sugar intakes.

Retailers and manufacturers will come under significant pressure to adjust strategies to not only comply with these new regulations, but also ensure British consumers have the right information to make smarter choices when they shop for groceries online and in-store.

We know manufacturers and retailers want to be part of the solution in helping the UK achieve a healthier future. Not only does this mean enabling shoppers to make healthier choices, but also helping them find products that meet their changing needs when they are faced with rising inflation and shrinking wallets. At the same time, the industry needs to be supported in maintaining profitability and dealing with issues like food waste.

Currently, NielsenIQ research shows 80% of consumer health and wellness preferences are not being met when they search for products online. Moreover, our research shows that 51% of food products fail to claim their single most searched ‘attribute’ on product labels – this is the relevant health ‘keyword’ (for example, gluten-free or no added sugar) – and 84% of food products fail to claim at least one of their three most searched attributes.

It’s apparent we are not making it easy for consumers to make healthy and/or informed decisions, and we’re also missing great opportunities to feature the virtues of our own products – both online and in-store.

There are four simple steps brands and retailers can follow to cut-through with these important messages and help consumers make an informed choice.

The first step is to develop an attribute-based keyword strategy. NielsenIQ found products including an attribute in the first 40 characters of their title received double the number of clicks than products where the attribute appeared later in the title.

It would also be beneficial to have these keywords appear on the product’s pack design, linking to QR codes for more information. This will allow consumers to feel empowered in their choice by giving them multiple options to read and understand the product information.

Secondly, brands and retailers should take care to feature attributes in product imagery, both on the digital shelf and the aisle in-store. This isn’t just marketing – this is about ingredient transparency and connecting to consumers’ need states.

The third step is for brands and retailers to harness the availability of data and nutritional information on a product for tech-assisted searches and recommendations, which makes particular sense in a society where transparency is becoming more important. With many consumers searching for products online before purchasing in-store, it’s imperative to have this enabled across both environments.

Finally, it is paramount for retailers and brands to understand the forces of change and the evolving consumer. Manufacturers must have a constant 360-degree view of behaviours with near real-time insights on what customers are searching for, what they’re saying they’ll buy, and what they’re actually buying.

This is essential in fully understanding the trends that influence demand and ensure product development remains relevant to consumers today and in the future. Healthier products and informed decisions will soon be table stakes for retailers, and they need to understand how to go above and beyond to maintain competitive advantage.