Nutrition labels confuse consumers globally

Fifty-nine per cent of consumers have difficulty understanding nutrition labels on food packaging and according to a Nielsen survey of 25,000 respondents in 56 countries. Some 52 percent understanding labels "in part," 41 percent "mostly" understand nutrition labels, and 7 percent do not understand nutrition labels at all.
North American consumers have the most confidence in understanding labels with 58 percent saying they mostly understand the information. But Nielsen also found skepticism about the believability of health claims such as "low fat" and "all natural."

More than two-thirds of global respondents said they believe nutritional claims are either never or only sometimes trustworthy. Calorie count claims are the most trusted claim with 33 percent saying these claims are always accurate and 58 percent saying they are sometimes accurate. Only 15 percent of respondents said more ambiguous claims such as "freshness" and "heart-healthy" are always accurate with 80 percent saying they are never or only sometimes believable claims.

More than half of all respondents consider themselves to be overweight, and of those, 78 percent are dieting to lose weight. The survey also found broad support for calorie counts on restaurant menus with 49 percent of global respondents saying fast-food restaurants should always have this information on the menus. Forty-one per cent said full-service chain restaurants should always post calorie counts.

"Consumers around the world have healthy eating on their minds, and consumer packaged goods marketers have an opportunity to help," says James Russo, vice-president of global consumer insights for Nielsen. "Consumer-friendly nutritional labeling can be a powerful marketing tool as consumers are hungry for easy-to-understand information."