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 some symbols and how much 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, one Mediterranean (Spain) and the other Scandinavian (Denmark). Four symbols were employed in the study: (1) heart-plus-stethoscope, (2) olives (a symbol often used in Spain but not so much 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.
Food Research International, 2014, Vol 62, p. 653-661
Food packaging; symbols; nutritional and health claims