Devising strategies to support consumer food choices is a high priority for the food systems and health agenda. Front-of-package labels (FOPL) provide visible nutrition information on packaged foods and have been introduced in 55 countries. However, a better understanding of how these tools support point-of-purchase decision-making is needed. In this discussion paper we examine the types of FOPL currently in use and how they align with consumer decision-making. We also examine the implications for deploying FOPL and other visual cues at points of purchase in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) contexts.
The FOPL currently being deployed describe or interpret nutrition information. These label types require the consumer to judge whether the product is nutritious. Most consumers, however, do not think much about their food purchases. Instead, they rely on simple, fast rules (heuristics) to make those choices. Labels that support this heuristic-based decision-making are those that are fully evaluative (i.e. a brand or symbol) and ‘judge’ the product as nutritious or not. Further testing and experimentation in LMIC contexts are needed to understand if heuristic-type FOPL support consumer decision-making at points of purchase.
FOPL and related visual cues needs to be re-assessed by normative agencies and policymakers to ensure they are recognisable, salient, and easily understood. Moreover, they should not be deployed as a standalone intervention but rather as a tool in a well-designed, sustained communication and marketing strategy