How packaging influences shoppers’ perceptions of health

Packaging plays a key role in impulse buying and a key issue for companies developing functional foods is being able to use the short purchase decision situation to show the customer the benefits of the product, including its health benefits. . Evaluating the impact on health is a particularly difficult task for the consumer.

Previous research tells us that consumers tend to use extrinsic characteristics as an indicator of product quality as well as perceived safety and should trust these factors in a shopping environment.

The aim of the current research, from the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was therefore to examine which extrinsic characteristics – shape, color, health claims, ingredient claims and national origin – result in a product which most plausibly shows the consumer that it has a beneficial impact on health.

The team also aimed to assess the differences between consumer groups in terms of perceived health impacts.

Claims, colors and shape

The data collection methodology was an online consumer survey, which yielded 633 respondents via the university’s social media interface, between November and December 2020.

Using images of a ready-to-drink smoothie product, respondents saw two variations of the packaging, from which they could choose the one that they thought was healthier. A total of 16 combinations were presented.

The team found that the claim “26g protein per serving” increased the credibility by 1.3 times, and the claim “rich in vitamin C” by 1.6 times, and the claim “with natural ingredients “doubled it from failing to post such a claim.

Not all of the claims examined showed a significant effect – the use of ingredient claims makes the health effect more believable than health claims. While the applied nutrition claim (“Contains no added sugar”) contributed to a more authentic demonstration of the product’s health benefits, the effect of the health claim examined was not significant. By displaying this nutrition claim on the package, consumers were 1.7 times more likely to view it as beneficial for their health.

Looking at the shape, the team concluded that using a column shape is most beneficial, while there is no significant difference between assessing the health effect of the round and humanoid shape.

Their results indicate that if the manufacturer uses the columnar shape instead of the humanoid shape (hourglass-like figure), consumers are 1.4 times more likely to rate the product as beneficial to their health.

Their results also suggest that if the manufacturer uses the color white-blue instead of white-red as the accent color on the packaging, the consumer is four times more likely to see the product as beneficial to their health.

They also found that the consumer is almost twice as likely to find that a functional white-green packaged smoothie is beneficial for their health compared to a white-red smoothie.

The results indicated that a declaration of national origin makes the health benefits of a product more credible. A functional smoothie with a national indication on the packaging was almost twice as likely to be perceived by the consumer as beneficial to health than a product without such an indication.

Based on the results, the product combination considered to be the healthiest was the one that was organic, white-blue in color, included the words “with natural ingredients”, a national indication, a nutritional claim and was from square shape.

Consumer demographics

The respondent’s sex influenced the assessment of two of the six attributes. Women rated the health impact even more credibly than men if columnar packaging was used instead of a humanoid, and women also gave greater weight to statements “rich in vitamin C” and “with natural ingredients”.

Respondents under 36 were more likely to believe in the health benefits of a smoothie containing either a nutrition claim or a health claim than the older age group.

Education has played an important role in the case of claims for two ingredients and the form of the package. Respondents with a higher level of education found the claims “With natural ingredients” and “26 g of protein per serving” to be more useful in assessing the impact on health, compared to those with a lower level of education. .

On the other hand, respondents with a higher level of education were less likely to believe that a product with a round-shaped packaging was beneficial for health compared to a humanoid-shaped packaging.

Consumers with a higher general health interest were less likely to believe that an organic product was beneficial for health. Additionally, people with a higher level of dietary involvement were more likely to consider an organic functional smoothie to be beneficial for their health, compared to those less involved.

People with a higher general health interest also rated the shape differently: they considered a humanoid shape to be less believable than a product with a round shape.

The authors conclude: “Consumers are more likely to believe that the product is beneficial for their health if it is predominantly white and blue, organic, and contains an ingredient claim. by the shape of the packaging.

“However, we found that in the perception of the health effect, even the form that looked like the humanoid form differed significantly from the columnar form. The credibility of the health effect, nutritional claims do. . The smoothie with the simpler packaging was the least likely to be perceived by respondents as having health benefits. This means that consumers were the least likely to believe that the packaging was beneficial for health s ‘It was red-white, non-organic, did not contain any ingredient or health claims, did not have a national origin label, and was angular in shape.

“In the functional food market, a significant proportion of products are withdrawn by companies shortly after launch. The results of our research could help manufacturers create and present packages in a combination that consumers are more likely to believe to have beneficial health effects.

“Although our research results have shown which characteristics are most likely to make consumers believe that a product has a beneficial effect on health, the question arises as to whether the combined use of so much information would be beneficial. good business practice. much less information more effectively presents the safety of the product to the consumer. Further research could aim to assess how much information a manufacturer should use on the packaging to convey a sufficiently credible health effect to the consumer.

The authors note that a big advantage of online sampling is time and cost-effectiveness, but it also comes with drawbacks, such as a lower response rate or unrepresentative samples. They also note that the distribution of respondents in this research was biased in several respects, such as education and gender of respondents.

Source: Nutrients

Plasek, B .; Lakner, Z.; Temesi,.

“I Believe It’s Healthy – Impact of Extrinsic Product Attributes on Demonstrating the Safety of Functional Food Products” (DOI registration)

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