Consumer Awareness of the Degree of Industrial Food Processing and the Association with Healthiness—A Pilot Study

Dieuwerke Bolhuis*, Ana Carolina Mosca, Nicoletta Pellegrini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Consumption of ultraprocessed foods (UPFs) has been associated with lower diet quality, obesity, and adverse health effects. Not much is known about how consumers evaluate the degree of processing of a food product and how they relate this to healthiness. An online questionnaire was completed by a total of 277 Dutch, 204 Italian, and 181 Brazilian consumers. Consumers were aged 18–65 year, mean 38 ± 13 year, 31% were males, and 71% were highly educated. Pictures of several common food products were evaluated on the degree of industrial processing and healthiness. Thirteen food categories were included, each including one minimally processed food (MPF), one High NS_UPF (Nutri-Score A or B), and one Low NS_UPF (Nutri-Score D or E). Lastly, knowledge and attitude about UPFs were assessed. Ultraprocessing was perceived as unhealthy by the majority of consumers (Dutch, Italian: 55%; Brazilian: 75%) and contributed to weight gain according to: 38% Dutch, 51% Italian, and 70% Brazilian consumers. Low NS_UPFs were correctly rated toward “processed” and “not healthy” in all countries. High NS_UPF were rated as processed but showed large variations in healthiness scores. In conclusion, consumers rated UPFs relatively low in healthiness compared with MPFs with similar Nutri-Scores within the same food category. These preliminary findings suggest that consumers incorporate, to some extent, the degree of industrial processing while assessing the healthiness of food products.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4438
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


  • consumer awareness
  • healthiness perception
  • industrial food processing
  • NOVA classification
  • Nutri-Score
  • ultraprocessed foods


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