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Role of health-related claims and symbols in consumer behaviour

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Recommendations to better help Europeans identify foods that are healthier options

An EU initiative determined how consumers’ understanding, purchase and consumption behaviour is affected by health-related claims and symbols on food packaging.

Industrial Technologies
Society
Fundamental Research
Health

Before 2006, some countries reported health claims to be regulated at national level while others prohibited their use. In contrast, health symbols have been regulated in only three Member States, while others have voluntary codes of practice in place. Availability of national databases on health claims and symbols was and remains low, and the data is often incomplete. Findings from the EU-funded CLYMBOL (Role of health-related claims and symbols in consumer behaviour) project informed EU policy in this area. CLYMBOL identified four main areas that impact the use of health claims and symbols in consumer food choice: familiarity; health goals; contextual factors; and personal characteristics. Project partners studied health claims and symbols in their context, for example, as they appear on a food package together or without additional information. They also examined how they interact with national differences and personal factors such as motivation and/or ability to process this health-related information. Findings show that the prevalence of claims and symbols on foods and drinks varies among Member States, with a quarter of all foods carrying some sort of nutrition, health or health-related ingredient claim. The CLYMBOL team also found that foods bearing health claims were marginally healthier than those without. Using the findings as a basis, researchers developed policy recommendations and communication guidelines on the provision of health claims and symbols in their specific context. The aim is to support informed consumer choice, healthy eating, and industry competitiveness for stakeholders such as European and national policymakers, the food industry, consumer and patient organisations, media and educators. CLYMBOL improved understanding of how health claims and symbols can impact consumer behaviour, empowering European consumers in making more informed choices.

Keywords

Food, health-related claims, health symbols, CLYMBOL, consumer behaviour

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