Inferring product healthfulness from nutrition labelling. The influence of reference points

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Despite considerable research on nutrition labelling, it has proven difficult to find a front-of-pack label which is informative about product healthfulness across various situations. This study examines the ability of different types of nutrition labelling schemes (multiple traffic light label, nutrition table, GDA, logo) to communicate product healthfulness (a) across different product categories, (b) between options from the same product category, and (c) when viewed in isolation and in comparison with another product. Results of two experiments in Germany and The Netherlands show that a labelling scheme with reference point information at the nutrient level (e.g., the traffic light label) can achieve all three objectives. Although other types of labelling schemes are also capable of communicating healthfulness, labelling schemes lacking reference point information (e.g., nutrition tables) are less effective when no comparison product is available, and labelling schemes based on overall product healthfulness within the category (e.g., logos) can diminish consumers’ ability to differentiate between categories, leading to a potential misinterpretation of product healthfulness. None of the labels affected food preferences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-149
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • front-of-pack
  • reference information
  • food-products
  • new-zealand
  • consumers
  • choices
  • attention
  • formats
  • impact
  • labels


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