Consumer use of health-related endorsements on food labels in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Rayner M., Boaz A., Higginson C.
The objective of this research was to examine how consumers use health-related food endorsements on food labels. Three endorsement programs were examined: those of the two major retailers in the United Kingdom, Tesco and Sainsbury's, and the "Pick the Tick" program of the National Heart Foundation of Australia. The main methodology used was protocol analysis. This involves the subject "thinking aloud" while performing a task--in this case, (a) shopping normally and (b) shopping "healthily" for foods on a predetermined list--to generate a protocol. Each subject was also interviewed to investigate reported use of endorsements. Subjects were a quota sample (N = 44) of shoppers representative of the U.K. and Australian populations. Information about the subjects, the protocols, and interview data were analyzed quantitatively; the protocols were also analyzed qualitatively. Sainsbury's and Australian shoppers never used the endorsements when shopping but Tesco shoppers did, albeit rarely. Tesco shoppers used the endorsement in complex ways and not just as a trigger to food selection. They sometimes used the endorsement to reject endorsed foods. Subjects claimed to use the endorsements even though the protocol analysis revealed no actual use. There are features of the Tesco endorsement program that make it more helpful to consumers than the other programs.