While a slim majority (53 percent) said they “believe the health claims made on food labels”, only five percent of the total 1,012 adults polled said they did so ‘strongly’, and 48 percent ‘somewhat’.
However, seven in ten (72 percent) said they believed that added probiotics improve their health, while eight in ten (79 percent) said they thought added omega-3 fatty acids could improve their health. But that does not mean that people are necessarily willing to pay more for such ingredients. Only 44 percent of those questioned said they would pay more for foods that make health claims, with an average tolerable price differential of 13 percent.
The poll comes in the midst of a Health Canada investigation into what it has called the ‘proliferation’ of health claims on product packages. The agency commissioned a report in 2009 to look into whether food industry claims are misleading consumers, and is considering setting a standardized definition of what constitutes a ‘healthy’ product.
In addition, a study released by the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition last year found that most Canadians use on-pack nutrition labeling as their primary source of nutritional information, but many find it difficult to interpret.
This latest survey found that those over the age of 55 are most willing to pay more for products carrying health claims, with 48 percent saying they would be willing to pay more for these types of products, and middle-aged Canadians (those aged 35 to 54) are least likely to pay more, at 39 percent. Of younger Canadians (18-34), 45 percent said they would pay more for health claim-carrying products.
Nevertheless, younger Canadians are more likely to believe health claims than other demographics, at 58 percent, compared to middle-aged (52 percent) and older (50 percent) Canadians.