October 01, 2012

Can health claims and symbols lead to healthier eating patterns? - CLYMBOL project has started

Last week, we had a kick-off meeting of Clymbol in Brussels. This is an EU-funded project to find out what really happens inside consumer minds regarding health claims and symbols at food packages.

At Wageningen University, we studied this topic before (see earlier posts about nutrition logos and eye tracking research). Now we will particularly focus on the purchase and consumption effects on health and nutrition information at food package.

We keep you updated about new study results!

This is the official press release:

A new EU funded (FP7) project kicks off today aiming to shed light on how consumers interpret health information on food labels, and how this affects their purchasing and consumption behaviour.
CLYMBOL (‘Role of health-related claims and symbols in consumer behaviour’) is a four year research project that will provide insights into consumer understanding and behaviour related to health information. Guidelines will be developed to evaluate the effects of health information on food labels.

The issue
Health claims are messages on food packages that state, suggest or imply a relationship between a certain food product (or one of its constituents) and health. ‘Vitamin A helps the proper functioning of the immune system’, is an example. Health symbols are awarded to food products which meet certain nutrient requirements and constitute the healthiest option within a product category (e.g. Choices logo, Swedish Keyhole).

A snack with visible front of pack logo and calorie info
“Health claims and symbols are aids to help consumers identify foods that are healthier options, but we know little on how they impact consumer behaviour”, says Prof Dr Klaus G. Grunert, partner in, and scientific advisor to, the CLYMBOL project.

The acceptance of food products with health information is influenced by many different factors. Familiarity with the product, health claim or functional ingredient used plus personal relevance appear as the most important determinants. But what is the actual effect of health information on consumer behaviour regarding food choices?

The research
CLYMBOL aims to understand better the effects of health information on purchase and consumption patterns. The CLYMBOL team will create a set of methodologies to measure the role of health claims and symbols in consumer behaviour, drawing on the latest developments in cognitive and behavioural science. The range of studies includes pan-European surveys, experiments in actual supermarkets and analysis of population data. By measuring consumers’ eye movements and reaction times, for example, researchers will be able to observe and analyse subconscious behaviour and link this to actual purchases. CLYMBOL will also develop guidelines directed towards health claims and symbols, taking into account the differences between consumers and EU member states.

The consortium
The CLYMBOL consortium gathers 14 partners from 9 countries who have proven outstanding expertise in various fields: cognitive consumer psychology, economics, marketing, nutrition and public health. A retailer is also part of the group, ensuring that the research can be carried out in real-life settings.
  • Aarhus University (Denmark) – Scientific Advisor
  • Agrifood Research and Technology Centre of Aragon, CITA (Spain)
  • Corvinus University Budapest (Hungary)
  • European Food Information Council (Belgium) – Coordinator
  • Ghent University (Belgium)
  • Globus SB-Warenhaus Holding GmbH &Co. KG (Germany)
  • Saarland University (Germany)
  • Schuttelaar & Partners NV (Netherlands)
  • Swedish National Food Agency (Sweden)
  • University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • University of Oxford (UK)
  • University of Surrey (UK)
  • University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)
  • Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
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