Academic article

Consumers’ perception of symbols and health claims as health-related label messages. A cross-cultural study

Carrillo, E.; Fiszman, S.; Lähteenmäki, L.; Varela-Tomasco, Paula

Publication details

Journal: Food Research International, vol. 62, p. 653–661, 2014

International Standard Numbers:
Printed: 0963-9969
Electronic: 1873-7145

Open Access: none

Links:
DOI

The package is the first contact between the food and the consumer and an excellent vehicle for communication
with the consumer. Visual cues (symbols) on the package can be used to communicate health-related information.
Although EU legislation provides for the use of symbols, there could be a still undiscovered or unquantified
gap between the consumers’ perception of somesymbols and howmuch these symbols appeal and convince. The
objective of this research was to study the perception of symbols and their relative importance, combined with
verbal health claims, in perceptions of the product’s appeal and convincingness in two countries, oneMediterranean
(Spain) and the other Scandinavian (Denmark). Four symbols were employed in the study: (1) heart-plusstethoscope,
(2) olives (a symbol often used in Spain but not somuch in Denmark), and two not directly linked to
food products: (3) active person (a person running towards the sun), and (4) gears. Perceptions of these symbols
were studied through word association, free listing and conjoint analysis. Three verbal health claims were presented
as either benefits or risks in combination with the images. The results showed that the overall idea of
the symbols perceived by the participants was similar in both countries but the culture influenced the connotations
attached to the symbols. In addition, the symbols on the packaging were found to be more important than
the verbal information.