Back in 2001, a Food Advisory Committee report highlighted the confusion over food labelling, especially when it came to claims such as ‘natural’, ‘pure’ and ‘fresh’. It went as far as to say that labellers had a tendency to be economical with the truth. This report came after an FSA study found 59% of shoppers regularly check food labels.
But have things really changed since then? We’ve certainly become more accustomed to hearing a lot more about healthy eating. The market has seen a host of food trends emerge: free-from, superfoods, five-a-day and Fairtrade to name just a few.
But this has only added to the health claims arsenal that brands can use and, of course, to the confusion. Media reports that switch casually from promoting to rubbishing said claims don’t exactly dispel that confusion.
And to complicate matters further, shoppers have become prolific deal hunters, displaying a remarkable willingness to trade down to value brands just to bag a deal - and to ignore any but the most compelling health claims.
While shoppers are finding new tactics to deal with all the labelling confusion, like increased product research or searching for ingredient information, brands with poorly communicated health benefits cannot expect to thrive in this environment.
I believe there is now a need - and an opportunity - for brands to leverage available space on shelf and on pack to help shoppers decode often contradictory and confusing food labelling.
Some brands are already successfully using their packaging to explain their claims. Eat Natural is squarely positioned in the natural and goodness camp, and explains its claims clearly and proudly on the side of its packs. But while packs talk to shoppers already considering your brand - what about those for whom it isn’t even on the radar?
It’s important in today’s pile ’em high supermarket environment to begin by looking at the pack, before working outwards to create meaningful and convincing messaging that drives brand choice, while creating more authentic, credible brand claims for the shopper.
Ewa Nuckey is planning director at Drink