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Improving the communication of scientific health claims on food packages

The aim of this project is to develop a 'prosumerist' digital platform — informed by research in linguistics, information design, nutritional science and behavioural economics — to gather information that will help manufacturers and marketers communicate more effectively about the health benefits of food and help consumers make more informed choices. The platform is currently available in English, German, French and Polish; by the end of 2021, it will also be available in Romanian and Hungarian.

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Consumers often neither understand nor trust health claims on food packages, and so are not able to use them to make informed personal nutrition choices. One reason for this is that regulations focus more on the 'truth value' of the claims rather than on whether or not consumers can easily understand them. Manufacturers and marketers may also lack information about how people interpret and respond to different linguistic and graphic elements on packages, especially when it comes to scientific information. The situation is even more complex when you consider the fact that, across the EU, health claims must be expressed in many different languages and meet the needs of consumers in many different 'food cultures'.

This project brings together a unique combination of researchers and professionals with expertise in linguistics, information design, behavioural economics, health and nutrition, computer science and marketing, working in partnership with manufacturers, retailers, NGOs and food start-ups to develop an empirically-based set of guidelines for how to communicate health claims more effectively.

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These guidelines will be developed using a multilingual and interactive website which will engage consumers from different EU countries in educational and entertaining activities to determine how they interact with health claims on different kinds of products when they are worded differently or appear in combination with different graphical elements (font, colour, pictures, etc.). These online interactions with consumers will provide valuable information on how people from different backgrounds understand health claims and how these claims influence their willingness to purchase particular products. In 2020, this information will also be used to create a further platform that all stakeholders can use to understand  consumer insights into the ways health information is presented on food products.