Product labeling and marketing is an important function to inform consumers. Sometimes comprehending a product’s labeling can be as difficult as reading an unfamiliar foreign language. According to a Nielsen study on food labeling and healthy eating, 59% of consumers around the world have difficulty understanding nutritional labels on food packaging.
A good example of how labeling can confuse the consumer is the use of the term natural on labeling. Natural is all over the place from food to shampoo. What does natural mean? The definition of natural is vast. There is no one simple definition (Merriam Webster). Marketers use the term everywhere to give the impression that their product is healthier, better, fresher, etc. than the competitor. When it comes to food, there are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs (Source: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service).
FOOD LABELING IS CONFUSING!! Here are some uses of the term ‘natural’ as a marketing/branding terminology:
(1) 100% Natural is the actual brand name of a product line of Campbell’s soup. Here is how Campbell’s defines natural: All 37 Campbell’s 100% Natural soups promise great taste and no artificial ingredients, flavors, colors or preservatives of any kind. (Source: www.campbellsoup.com/Products/100Natural)
(2) Peace Cereal markets itself as all natural. Their website states: We use only the finest all natural ingredients without compromise. All ingredients are grown and made without GMOs, and we use only expeller pressed oils. Note that this cereal is not certified organic. (Source: www.peacecereal.com)
(3) Bear Naked their website states: All natural ingredients you know, love and can actually pronounce. In this case it calls itself an all natural cereal. Note this all natural cereal does not state that it does not contain GMOs nor that it is organic. Bear Naked believes in eating natural, minimally processed foods that help give us the fuel to live a full and active life.… it is possible that some Bear Naked foods containing these ingredients may contain GMOs. (Source: www.bearnaked.com)
There is a universal trend that people want greater transparency when it comes to food labeling. A Nielsen study reported that globally 49% of people want to know the calorie count for fast food restaurants.
McDonald’s announced on September 12, 2012 (press release) that all restaurant and drive-thru menus nationwide will have calorie information. This is a forward step to empower individuals to make better food choices.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to trust. Consumers need to not only understand the labeling but also trust what they are reading. According to a Nielsen study this is an ambiguity in the minds of consumers. Of 10 different product claims studied, only three received a complete believability rating by more than 20% of consumers.
It is evident that there is an issue with product labeling. This presents an opportunity for marketers to:
1) LABEL PRODUCTS CLEARLY
2) CROWDSOURCE FOR IDEAS ON IMPROVEMENTS
3) PROVIDE SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION VIA QR CODES
4) SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SUPPLY CHAIN WITH VIDEOS (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), IMAGES (Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) & CONTENT (Blog, magazine, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
TRUST IS WHAT MAKES A CONSUMER A BELIEVER & ADVOCATE!