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Nearly two-thirds (65%) of US consumers say they notice nutritional information on food packaging more often now compared with two years ago, according to a global online survey by The Nielsen Company (via Retailer Daily).

Though two-thirds (67%) of US consumers also claim to “mostly” understand the nutritional information on food packaging, less than half (44%) of global consumers say they do:

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“Given that so many consumers are taking time to read nutrition labels, there is also a marketing opportunity for food manufacturers to provide consumer-friendly information on labels that may entice shoppers to switch brands at the point of purchase,” said Deepak Varma, SVP, Nielsen Customized Research.

US Consumers Label-Conscious at Diet Time

For some US shoppers, scanning food labels appears to be routine behavior: 25% check the nutritional information while trying to lose weight, compared with only 15% of global consumers.

More than half of US consumers (51%) say they always check the fat content on nutrition labels, while nearly half check food labeling for calories (48%) and trans fats (43%):

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“The relationship between consumers and nutritional information and labeling provides unmistakable insight into health and diet concerns,” said Varma.

“Without question, nutritional labeling can be a powerful marketing tool for savvy food manufacturers. For example, food marketers can make relatively low investments in pack and labeling changes compared with advertising and promotions and drive significant sales.”

Other key findings include:

  • Though less than a quarter (21%) of US consumers always check the nutritional information on food packaging, nearly half (42%) check when thinking of buying a product for the first time.
  • 8% of US consumers never check the nutritional information, consistent with the global average.
  • 67% of US consumers say they understand the distinct difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat, slightly higher than the global average (60%).
  • Globally, almost half (42%) of consumers check food labels for preservatives, while only 24% of US consumers say they do.

About the survey: The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Customized Research, was conducted in April 2008 among 28,253 internet users in 51 markets in Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and the Middle East. The half-yearly survey provides insight into current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and the major concerns of consumers across the globe.

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