There are significant differences between countries but, in general, consumers see health claims as useful; they prefer short, succinct wording rather than long and complex claims; and they believe that claims should be approved by the government.
Consumers view any food as healthier, if it carries a health claim. This may discourage them from seeking nutrition information. Often consumers do not clearly distinguish between nutrient content, structure-function, and health claims.
Health claims for foods are permitted in an increasing number of countries, but there are very few studies evaluating their effect on purchase behavior and consumer health.
Eight of Scotland’s biggest food sellers, including Tesco and Asda, have signed a commitment to help customers get their five-a-day.
Firms can choose from a list of initiatives, such as increasing the proportion of fruit and vegetables in their own-brand products like ready-meals, smoothies and soups. The cost of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables could be kept “affordable” and items could be displayed in places where shoppers might be tempted to buy them on impulse.
Boots, The Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are also taking part.
The voluntary arrangement is being co-ordinated by the Scottish Retail Consortium and is backed by the Scottish Government.
Consortium director Ian Shearer said: “The obesity challenge facing Scotland is considerable and retailers are committed to helping the Scottish Government put a long-term strategy for tackling the problem into action.
“The advice to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day is well-known, not least because of the efforts major retailers have already put into promoting the message. This further commitment shows retailers are ready to do even more to help consumers eat healthily.
“The promise stores are signing up to will have an impact on how they price, promote and prepare fruit and vegetables. These are practical and affordable steps which make it easier for all customers to enjoy healthier diets.”
Latest government figures, for 2009, show that two-thirds of men aged 16-64 (66.3%) and more than half of women (58.4%) in Scotland are overweight, which includes those classed as obese. Obesity-related deaths in Scotland increased by over 40% (196) in 5 years to 2009.
Scottish sports minister Shona Robison said: “By enabling consumers to make informed choices about what is best to eat and the benefits of fruit and vegetables, this commitment from Scotland’s retailers can help improve diet and tackle unhealthy weight.”