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Front of package symbols as a tool to promote healthier food choices in Slovenia: Accompanying explanatory claim can considerably influence the consumer's preferences

Miklavec, Krista, Pravst, Igor, Raats, Monique M., Pohar, Jure
Food research international 2016 v.90 pp. 235-243
adults, consumer preferences, food choices, foods, lifestyle, men, questionnaires, social networks, women, Slovenia
Many nutrition and/or health symbols were introduced in different countries in the past years and Slovenia is no exception. The objective of our study was to examine familiarity with and perception of the Protective Food symbol (PF symbol) in Slovenia and to investigate consumers' associations related to the symbol, and the influence of symbols' appearance on their preferences. The study was conducted through online questionnaire with incorporated word-association tasks and conjoint analysis; GfK consumer panel and social media (Facebook) were used for recruitment of Slovenian adults (n=1050; 534 men, 516 women). The majority (78%) of the participants reported they had previously seen the PF symbol, and 64% declared familiarity with it. Familiarity was verified using a word-association task in which we analysed the nature of the symbol's description, distinguishing the description of symbol's visual appearance or its meaning. In this task, 73% of the participants described the symbol's meaning with reference to health or a healthy lifestyle, confirming their familiarity with it. Women and those responsible for grocery shopping were significantly more familiar with the symbol. The impact of the symbol's appearance on consumers' preferences was investigated using conjoint analysis consisting of two attributes – three different symbols found on foods in Slovenia (PF symbol, Choices Programme symbol and Keyhole symbol), and accompanying worded claims. Although worded claims had less relative importance (29.5%) than the symbols (70.5%), we show that careful choice of the wording can affect consumers' preferences considerably. The lowest part-worth utility was observed without an accompanying claim, and the highest for the claim directly communicating health (“Protects your health”). The fact that most participants are well familiar with the PF symbol indicates the symbol's potential to promote healthier food choices, which could be further improved by an accompanying worded claim that clearly describes its meaning. In addition, the use of Facebook ads is shown to be a useful alternative recruitment method for research with consumers.