The European Food Information Council (EUFIC), in collaboration with researchers at the University of Surrey, UK, has published the results of its latest European nutrition labelling consumer research - now focusing on portion information.
Portion information is often included on food and drink labels but little is known about how consumers interpret and use this information. To find out, EUFIC collaborated with researcher Dr Monique Raats, co-director of the Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre at the University of Surrey, England, to carry out an online survey that reached a total of 13,117 consumers in 6 EU countries (Germany, UK, Spain, France, Poland and Sweden). EUFIC has produced a webinar of these initial results, available at www.eufic.org from 22nd February.
In a climate of overweight and obesity, the amount consumers eat or drink is just as important as what is eaten. This study is the most comprehensive study on consumers and portion information in Europe. It provides evidence that when portion information is present on pack in addition to per 100g/100ml information, consumers can use it to help them to use nutrition information correctly. Whilst there is an opportunity to educate consumers on what constitutes a portion and how they are set, the challenge remains to encourage consumers to look for and use the information.
Portion information is considered relevant by half of the respondents, and mainly perceived as the amount one should be eating
A majority of consumers described a portion to mean the amount consumed by one person in one sitting. Across all countries there was significant evidence that respondents are more likely to agree that a portion is the amount a person should be eating or drinking in one sitting, rather than what they are likely to consume.
Although only one third of respondents looked for portion information on food and drink packages, nearly half said it was relevant to them. This differed by country, from Spain 70%, to 36% in Germany. But price and use by date are still the most looked for on labels, with almost 90% of consumers claiming to often or always look for this information.
Among the respondents who agreed portion information is relevant to them, most explained it allows them to determine how many portions are in a product, or how much they should buy, or eat, or it allows them to monitor food or nutritional intake. The main reasons given why portion information may not be relevant to everybody relate to people being different, be it in the amount they eat or their appetite, or the degree to which they are weight conscious.
Consumers agree with stated portion size for majority of products
For 15 of the 19 food types, at least half the respondents in all six countries thought the stated portion size was 'exactly right'. Where they differed, they were likely to think it was too small, rather than too big. Respondents were slightly more likely to agree than disagree that they would like portion information to be more widely available on food and drink packs.