Impact of Nutritional Labelling on Food Packages on The Consumers Purchase Behaviours


Purpose – This paper aims to determine that how far the information availability of food products on their packaging affect the consumers buying behaviour?

Design/methodology/approach- In this paper, various journal articles from year 2008-2018 based on the consumer behaviour buying behaviours of food packages were reviewed.

Findings- Consumer behaviour is quite vast field. It is closely related to how a human nature reacts to the stimuli it receives over the time. Since human nature constantly changes therefore it is quite unpredictable to make future predictions in the purchase related situations. There are numerous factors that play their part in the purchase decisions of the consumers. The factors that can play their part in influencing the buying decisions are cultural, personal, psychological, and social. The aim of this report is to highlight that how far consumer buying behaviours are influenced by the information available on the product packaging of food products. Various themes have been highlighted under and related with the given topic.

Limitations- In this paper very limited articles have been reviewed due to the constraints of the word limits. Most of the studies were carried out in the developed countries which is why there are many things that cannot be generalized.

Keywords- nutritional labelling, food packages, cue-of-the-cloud-effect

Paper type A literature review

Impact of nutritional information on food packaging over the purchase decisions

In the article (A.Ariyawardana, 2011) have highlighted that the nutritional labels play an important role in the provision of the information to consumers. According to the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) defines labelling as the printed, written and graphical representation on the packing. The label is an element of packaging. It contains the brand name and variety of information related to the product. The author has emphasized on the fact that labelling is the fundamental source of contact between the buyers and the sellers. According to FDA, labels should state the name of the product, the nutritional information, weight of the packet, details of the manufactures and the name of the brand. Nutrition labelling on food affects the consumers purchasing behaviour. Studies have shown that due to the presence of the nutritional information on the food packaging, it leads to the consumers switching their consumption from the junk foods to the healthier foods.

Moreover, this is further supported by the demand and supply trends in the market. With the well-mentioned nutritional information along with the consumers’ interest in the purchase of food products can affect the nutritional intake in a positive manner.  The purchase decision of buying food products is related to depth of information available on the food packaging. When the food products are not labelled they can lead to opinion formation from other sources such as advertising, own information about food, public health messages. This creates over and understatement of the food related knowledge. In Sri Lanka, there are laws regarding the provision of nutritional information on the food packaging but this is not a mandatory requirement. Due to liberalisation policies, the imported product can easily enter the market and this creates intense competition with the local products. The multinational manufacturers are far better in providing the nutritional information on the food packages and that is why consumers prefer buying these products as they believe they are getting better value for money.

In order to identify that whether the consumers find the nutritional information useful and are they willing to pay for the products that have nutritional information on them, a primary research was conducted. There was a positive correlation found between the propensity of the consumers to pay for the food products that have nutritional labels on them. There were some of the variables such as qualification, gender, household size and specific dietary status. These variables were significant in influencing the willingness to pay for the nutritional labelling. Females were willing to pay for the nutritional labelling. The reason behind this is that still females are main purchase decision makers in the house. Moreover, they find themselves responsible for the provision of healthy food for their households. Secondly, it was found out that those who are well educated they prefer to have nutritional information on the food packaging as they read the information and then purchase the products. This also helps to assimilate the useful information in their dietary habits. The dietary habits have a direct effect on the food label usage. Those consumers who are concerned about their health they are more likely to pay for the labels. Lastly, it was found out that the bigger household size leads to less willingness to pay for the nutritional information. Due to the burden of expenses on for the large family size, these kind of consumers are less willing to pay for the nutritional information.

Thus, it was found out that the main reason why nutritional labelling is given importance in purchase decision is because they are health conscious.

Availability of online information: Cue-of-the-cloud-effect

Due to the increased access to internet, consumers expect the availability of information online as well and it also creates an influence on the purchase behaviours.

Despite of the increase in the online information availability, many of the customers still buy from the “brick-and-mortar” stores. In the article (Rajesh, 2016) research was conducted to see that how far the availability of information online competes with the store purchases and what is the customers experience in the physical that can be influenced by the online context. The cloud is referred as the store in which the cue exists that is the online information that exists in the store environment. This can be the case that when a customer goes to buy a food product, the salesperson will tell her about the website from where the customer can get more information regarding the food product. The research has shown that due to the cue and the cloud effect the customers have got more avenues open for the information in the offline settings.

The better availability of information supplements the purchasing decisions. The cue and the cloud effect plays a very important role in the brick and the mortar situation. Due to the underlying characteristics of the online information such as convenience, Omni-presence and accessibility, it was also found out from the research that when the information is available online customers don’t have to rely on their memory to retain the information. Customers are confident that they can retrieve back to the online sources to find out about the product. This have a positive influence in the purchase decision making. However, the situation gets meagre when the online information available is low. The reason is that customers were dependent on the online sources and when they couldn’t find sufficient information online this will negatively affect the purchase intent.

Impact of nutrition knowledge and the availability of nutritional information on the purchase decisions

Nutritional information on the food packaging is considered as the important factor for the consumers to make informed purchase decisions (Grunert K, 2010). The front-of-pack (FOP) labels contains information on sugar, fat, saturated sugar, calories and salt (Baltas, 2001). A study in UK was conducted using the surveys and observations from the consumers to check that how far the consumers check for cues in-store to find about the nutritional information and do they understand the information. It was found out in the study that the 27 per cent of the shopper saw the nutrition information on food packages.

It was also observed that the degree of understanding the nutritional information is much more than the degree of usage of this information. The reason behind this is that the consumers are more interested in sweet food products and they don’t consider the nutritional information while consuming the sugary items. Consumers were most interested in knowing about the food products such as ready-made meals.  In understanding of the nutritional information, demographic factors had played a key role. It was found out that the higher social class females have greater tendency to have greater knowledge about the nutritional information and this impacted the health of these people positively. Their BMI was found to be balanced. The author (Klaus G.Grunet, 2010) has discussed a very vital point regarding the labelling policy. When the labelling policy is induced in the nutritional policy then this will impact positively on the healthy consumption of food and understanding of the nutritional information will also rise. It was concluded that food purchases are routine in nature. They are result of previous purchase decisions and they are done relatively fast.  Also the particular labelling is not suitable for all the products. The food products that are indulgent in nature requires a different set of labelling as compared to the products that are healthy (Sing Chuan Kok, 2017).

Impact of on-shelf nutrition labels in the super markets

The on-shelf labelling in the supermarkets is aimed to catch the customers attention and provide them with the relevant information related to the food packages. Regarding the government policies if the legal policies are stringent to provide the information then this will lead to an increased shift in the purchase of food packets. In 12 countries the policy makers have developed Front of Package nutrition labels that goes parallel with the scientific aspects for better designed labels (Feunekes G, 2008).

In this article (Erin Hobin, 2017), on-shelf labelling system that is known as Guiding Stars system is studied. The Guiding Stars in an on-shelf labelling system that marks the food on the basis of nutritional quality in the super markets. The food labels are given the scores between 0-3. The zero stars are given to those food products that don’t have nutritional value that meets the standards. The basis of scoring is decided on the set criteria. The article has conducted the impact of consumers buying behaviour of food packages when this system was used by a super market in Canada. The study was conducted through use of controlled and intervention super markets. In the intervention super market, it was found out that there was significant impact of the ratings on the purchase of the food products. The food purchases were made based on the healthier choices. Consumers avoided the purchase of sugary and fatty food products.

The on-shelf labelling is advantageous in two ways, firstly, it has led to shift the purchase of the food products that are healthy. This will lead to make healthier food choices. Secondly, the prices of the food that has high nutritional value are much more than the ones with low nutritional value. This has led to an increase in the overall revenue for the supermarkets. As policy makers, should really understand the impact of the shelves labelling system with respect to value of the food packages. Moreover, with increased awareness about the labelling system it will contribute to an increment in the revenue of those products that have 3-star rating. When policy makers think about using these kinds of systems they should clearly move forward with attention. This should be until the research has proved that these labelling systems have a positive correlation with the health outcomes.


This topic has covered various themes in order to answer the research question that how far the availability of the nutritional information affects the buying behaviours of food packages. In the given context information is not limited to the front of the package information, else online availability of the nutritional information has also been discussed. Online information is one of the growing needs because consumers even though purchase in brick and mortar model but look for online information as well. The online information is an additional information for the consumers and research has highlighted that online information supplements the nutritional information on the Front of the Package.

By far, the themes have been discussed from the various studies conducted in different parts of the world. The most relevant factor that was found was that how far the consumers have the nutritional knowledge and with that comes the implementation. Those areas where the population is educated they tend to become more informed about what they are consuming and they have shown greater interest to know more. Therefore, keeping the analysis in mind, it can be recommended to the policy makers that they should first see what are the demographic variables. Moreover, if consumers will be exposed with more knowledge about the food they are consuming they will be more interested in knowing it and can make healthier buying choices. Thus, itself the nutritional information can’t play a major role, other cues such as demographic variables, marketing and greater awareness also has to play its part. 

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