To See or Not to See: Do Front of Pack Nutrition Labels Affect Attention to Overall Nutrition Information?



Citation: Bix, L., Sundar, R. P., Bello, N. M., Peltier, C., Weatherspoon, L. J., & Becker, M. W. (2015). To See or Not to See: Do Front of Pack Nutrition Labels Affect Attention to Overall Nutrition Information? Plos One, 10(10), 20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139732
Background Front of pack (FOP) nutrition labels are concise labels located on the front of food packages that provide truncated nutrition information. These labels are rapidly gaining prominence worldwide, presumably because they attract attention and their simplified formats enable rapid comparisons of nutritional value. Methods Eye tracking was conducted as US consumers interacted with actual packages with and without FOP labels to (1) assess if the presence of an FOP label increases attention to nutrition information when viewers are not specifically tasked with nutrition-related goals; and (2) study the effect of FOP presence on consumer use of more comprehensive, traditional nutrition information presented in the Nutritional Facts Panel (NFP), a mandatory label for most packaged foods in the US. Results Our results indicate that colored FOP labels enhanced the probability that any nutrition information was attended, and resulted in faster detection and longer viewing of nutrition information. However, for cereal packages, these benefits were at the expense of attention to the more comprehensive NFP. Our results are consistent with a potential short cut effect of FOP labels, such that if an FOP was present, participants spent less time attending the more comprehensive NFP. For crackers, FOP labels increased time spent attending to nutrition information, but we found no evidence that their presence reduced the time spent on the nutrition information in the NFP. Conclusions The finding that FOP labels increased attention to overall nutrition information by people who did not have an explicit nutritional goal suggests that these labels may have an advantage in conveying nutrition information to a wide segment of the population. However, for some food types this benefit may come with a short-cut effect; that is, decreased attention to more comprehensive nutrition information. These results have implications for policy and warrant further research into the mechanisms by which FOP labels impact use of nutrition information by consumers for different foods.


Of-Pack, Eye-Tracking, Visual-Attention, Health Claims, Food-Products, Consumers