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How packaging affects shoppers’ perception of health


Packaging plays a central role in impulse purchases and a central issue for companies that develop functional foods is to be able to use the short purchase decision situation to show the customer the benefits of the product, including its health benefits. Assessing the health effects is a particularly difficult task for the consumer.

Previous research has shown that consumers tend to use extrinsic properties as an indicator of product quality as well as perceived health and must rely on these factors in a shopping environment.

The aim of the current research of the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Biosciences was therefore to investigate which external characteristics – shape, color, health claims, information on ingredients and domestic origin – lead to a product that most plausibly shows the consumer that it has a positive impact on health.

The team also aimed to assess the differences between consumer groups in terms of their perceptions of health effects.

Demands, colors and form

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

Using pictures of a ready-to-drink smoothie product, respondents were shown two packaging options from which they could choose the one that they thought looked the healthiest. A total of 16 combinations were shown.

The team found that “26g of protein per serving” was 1.3 times more credible, “rich in vitamin C” was 1.6 times and “with natural ingredients” was the degree The credibility doubled compared to stating that it was not a claim.

Not all of the information examined showed a significant effect – the use of information on ingredients makes the health effect more credible than health claims. While the nutrition-related claim used (“contains no added sugar”) contributed to a more authentic proof of the health benefits of the product, the effect of the health-related claim examined was not significant. When this nutritional information was stated on the packaging, the probability that the consumers assessed it as beneficial to health was 1.7 times higher.

In studying the shape, the team concluded that using a columnar shape would be most beneficial, while there was no significant difference between assessing the health effects of the round and humanoid shapes.

Their results show that consumers are 1.4 times more likely to rate the product as beneficial if the manufacturer uses the columnar shape instead of the humanoid shape (hourglass shape).

Their results also suggest that if the manufacturer uses the color white-blue instead of white-red as the highlighted color of the packaging, it is four times more likely that the consumer will rate the product as beneficial.

They also found that consumers are almost twice as likely to rate a functional smoothie in white and green as a white and red one.

The results showed that a statement about domestic origin makes a product’s health benefits more credible. A functional smoothie with a reference to domestic origin on the packaging was almost twice as likely to be perceived by consumers as beneficial to health as a product without such a reference.

Based on the results, the healthiest product combination was considered to be that which was organic, white-blue, with the statement “with natural ingredients”, a reference to the local origin, a nutritional value and a square shape.

Consumer demographics

The respondent’s gender influenced the assessment for two of the six characteristics. Women assessed the health effects even more credibly than men if column packaging was used instead of humanoid, and women also attached greater importance to the statements “rich in vitamin C” and “with natural ingredients”.

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

With two statements about ingredients and the form of packaging, education played an important role. Respondents with a higher level of education rated the statements “With natural ingredients” and “26 g protein per serving” as more useful when assessing the health effects compared to people with less education.

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

Consumers with a higher general interest in health are less likely to believe that an organic product is beneficial for their health. Additionally, those with a higher level of food involvement were more likely to view an organic functional smoothie as beneficial than those less engaged.

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

The authors conclude: “Consumers are most likely to believe that a product is healthy if it is mainly white and blue, organic and contains an ingredient statement. This is followed, to a lesser extent, by the indication of domestic origin and the nutrition-related indication “, and least influenced by the shape of the packaging.

“However, we found that in terms of the perception of health effects, even the shape, which is similar to the humanoid shape, is significantly different from the columnar shape. In addition, we think it is an important part of our results to point out that, although health claims do not have a significant impact on the credibility of health effects, nutrition claims. The smoothie with the simplest packaging was the least likely to be perceived as beneficial to health by the respondents. This means that consumers were least likely to believe the packaging was health-promoting when it was red and white, not organic, did not contain any ingredients or health claims, had no domestic label of origin, and was angular in shape.

“In the functional food market, a significant number of products are withdrawn by companies shortly after they have been released to market. The results of our research can help manufacturers create and present packaging in a combination that consumers are more likely to believe is positive Has health benefits.

“Although our research has shown which properties are most likely to lead consumers to believe that a product is beneficial for health, the question arises whether the combined use of so much information is good business practice – much less information makes the health of the product more effective for the consumer Further research could aim to estimate how much information a manufacturer should use on the packaging in order to convey a sufficiently credible health effect to the consumer. “

The authors point out that a major advantage of online sampling is its time and cost efficiency, but it also has disadvantages such as a lower response rate or unrepresentative samples. They also find that the distribution of respondents in this study was skewed in several ways, such as respondents’ education and gender.

Source: nutrients

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

“I believe it is healthy – influence of extrinsic product attributes on the proof of the health of functional foods”

https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103518 (register DOI)


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