Using eye tracking research to improve nutrition labels
Ever since the FDA mandated nutrition labeling on food packaging in 1993, we’ve become accustomed to looking for the familiar Nutrition Facts panel on the food we buy. There has been preliminary research on the effectiveness of current nutrition label standards using eye tracking to test the visual behavior of consumers as they examine food packaging. A group of international researchers conducted a review of all current peer-reviewed eye tracking research on consumer attention to nutrition labels.
There was a general consensus that certain characteristics of nutrition labels make it more difficult than necessary for consumers to locate and comprehend the most important information. For example, eye tracking revealed that the nutritional information at the top of the label receives more visual attention that items lower down. This indicates that the most significant nutrition facts should be located at the top of the label, in order to ensure consumers aren’t overlooking important information that will help them make healthy food choices. They also found that the location of the label itself on the packaging influences visual attention, with labels placed in the center receiving 30% more visual attention than labels on the side.
In their conclusion, the researchers proposed a list of recommendations for improving the format and characteristics of nutrition labels that will improve consumers’ search for nutrition information. These include centralizing the location of the label on the packaging, ordering nutrients by health relevance, removing visual clutter surrounding the label, and increasing the size of the Nutrition Facts chart, among others. More details on this study can be found here.
How often do you check the nutrition labels of food you buy? What potential eye tracking studies on this topic would you propose to increase the impact of nutrition labels on healthy eating choices? Let us know in the comments below!
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