The EU regulation No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods defines nutrition, health, and risk-reduction claims (NHR claims) as:
  • Nutrition claim: “any claim which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to e.g. nutrient”
  • Health claim: “any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health”
  • Risk-reduction claim: “any health claim that states, suggests or implies that the consumption of a food category, a food or one of its constituents significantly reduces a risk factor in the development of a human disease”

Food business operators are always eager to make NHR claims on their products as they believe this will have a positive impact on consumers purchase choices and thus translating into increase sales.

Studies have, however, shown mixed results about their impact on consumers purchase behavior, with some even suggesting that their use should be well-considered. To better understand these inconsistent results, a recent review analyzed the factors associated with the impact of NHR claims on consumers’ preferences and purchase behaviors (Steinhauser and Hamm, 2018). The study was based on 66 studies conducted between 1980s to 2017 and focused only on NHR claims that are shown in a written format on food packages (excluding nutritional labels).

Besides general factors such as consumer’s country of origin or country specific legal framework, there are other determinants that influence consumer’s preferences and purchase intent associated with NHR claims. Consumer’s health motivation and nutritional knowledge (objective and perceived/subjective knowledge) were found to be key elements influencing consumer’s decisions, being health motivation a more prominent feature and nutrition knowledge a decisive factor. According to the authors, higher nutritional knowledge lead to lower preferences or lower purchase intentions towards NHR claim products, while higher health motivation lead to higher preferences or higher purchase intentions. Likewise, consumers with disease experience (their own or from relatives) also showed higher preference for products containing claims. This was also relevant for older consumers and women. There was also a positive correlation between consumer familiarity with claim type or ingredient (e.g. vitamin C) and consumer preferences.

Other important determinants mentioned for the NHR claim effect towards consumer preferences and purchase behavior were linked with the product itself but the results were inconclusive. However, the authors concluded that the effect of a product with claims was dependent of the product perceived healthiness and this was also strongly dependent on the interaction between the product and the nutrients in the NHR claim (e.g. NHR claim about omega-3 lead to higher preference for a fish product than for bread which would be better advertised with a claim about fiber). Moreover, the effect of NHR claims on nutritional unfavorable products could potentially mislead the consumer by making the product appear healthy (e.g. vitamins and minerals added to sugary breakfast cereals).

It is important to build trust with consumers and not provide misleading information. Food business operators should make sure that they provide consumers with meaningful nutritional or health claims on their products. We can support you and develop a tailor-made claim strategy and roadmap for your product. Get in touch today!

– 30.06.2018

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