Interest in reading the Nutrition Facts panel on the back of food and beverage packages has slipped in recent years, according to market research organization the NPD Group.
The researcher has been tracking consumer attitudes and eating habits daily through its National Eating Trends program for the past 30 years, and since the introduction of Nutrition Facts panels in the 1990s, it has asked for views on the statement “I frequently check labels to determine whether the foods I buy contain anything I’m trying to avoid.” Just after the labels started appearing on foods in 1995, 64 percent completely or mostly agreed with that statement, but since then agreement has ranged from a high of 61 percent to a low of 50 percent.
Chief industry analyst at NPD Harry Balzer said: “If there is one clear message that consumers are trying to send it’s that the label has grown tired and uninteresting. All good marketers want to keep their packaging contemporary, and that should include the nutrition facts information."
Nutrition Facts panels on FDA-regulated foods were heralded in by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, and meat and poultry products will also be required to carry the panels from January 1, 2012.
The market researcher also tracks what consumers look for when they do check the Nutrition Facts panel. It has found that they pay most attention to calories, total fat, sugar, sodium and calories from fat, in that order.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently in the process of reviewing its guidelines for front-of-pack labeling, while the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute have just announced their own front-of-pack nutrition labeling system, which will highlight calories, saturated fat, sugars and sodium, as well as some ‘nutrients to encourage.’
An Institute of Medicine report released in October as part of the FDA’s investigation to find the most effective form of front-of-pack labeling recommended highlighting calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.