Researchers are studying FOP nutrition labels to improve packaged foods


Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.6. November 2020

Researchers from Illinois State University, North Carolina State University, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Maryland published a new article in the Marketing magazine It examines how moving nutritional labels, which are normally placed on the back of product packaging, affects the front.

The study included in the Marketing magazine, titled “Competitive Impact of Adopting Nutrition Labeling on Front of Packaging on Nutritional Quality: Evidence from Facts in Front Style,” written by Joon Ho Lim, Rishika Rishika, Ramkumar Janakiraman and PK Kannan.

Can a change in food packaging improve the nutritional quality of the product? While this change may be easy, a lot is at stake.

Diet-related chronic diseases are increasingly weighing on the US economy, increasing health care costs and increasing diet-related health inequalities. Since the 1970s, the American diet has shifted significantly towards high calorie and low nutritional foods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than a third of American adults are obese. Obesity rates among children and adolescents have also skyrocketed over the past 30 years. Every fifth child of school age is considered obese.

To counter this worrying trend, policymakers, food manufacturers and grocery retailers have made efforts over time to design nutrition labels that can educate consumers about the nutritional value of the foods they buy and help consumers make healthier choices .

The World Health Organization (WHO) also views nutrition labeling as an important policy option in promoting healthier eating.

The packaged food industry has voluntarily taken steps to educate consumers about the nutritional value of food so that consumers can make better choices.

One such initiative by is the FOP nutrition label (Front-of-Package). FOP nutrition labels are voluntarily adopted by food manufacturers and include nutritional information on the front of food packaging in a clear, simple and easy-to-read format.

The FOP labels contain the most important information listed in the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP; displayed on the back or side of food packaging) and often contain the calorie content and the amounts of key nutrients to be limited (e.g. saturated fat, sugar and sodium per serving).

In an innovative study, our research team evaluated the effects of introducing an FOP nutrition label in a product category on the nutritional quality of foods in that category.

The study reports four findings. First, the introduction of FOP nutrition labeling in one product category leads to a significant improvement in the nutritional quality of foods in that category. Second, the effect of FOP is stronger on premium brands (high-priced brands) and brands with a narrower product line width.

Third, the FOP adoption effect is stronger for unhealthy categories and categories with a higher level of competition. Fourth, manufacturers increase the nutritional quality of products by reducing the calorie content and limiting nutrients such as sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

Lim explains:

This means that policy makers, working with food manufacturers and retailers, should encourage the adoption of voluntary, standardized and transparent labeling programs and consider options to expand the information contained in FOP labels. We believe that policymakers should also invest in awareness raising campaigns that would educate consumers about the value of FOP labels and further encourage food manufacturers to offer nutritionally better products. ”

For food manufacturers, the results suggest that they must devote significant resources to product innovation in order to stay competitive.

Manufacturers in unhealthy and more competitive categories in particular can be more strategic and invest in innovation so that they are ready to offer better products once FOP is in place.

Rishika added, “Grocery retailers should work with manufacturers to incentivize them to adopt FOP as it can result in better quality products for their consumers and help build a positive brand image. Retailers can also promote products with FOP labels, especially in more competitive countries and unhealthy product categories, which can encourage manufacturers to innovate and improve the nutritional quality of foods over time. ”

Researchers encourage retailers to invest in measures to monitor and track sales of products with FOP labels, and provide this feedback to their manufacturers on a regular basis to accelerate the competitive effect of FOP labels. For consumers, the study finds that the brands that have introduced FOP labeling offer nutritionally superior products than those that have not introduced the labeling.

This finding is particularly helpful for consumers with a lack of time who want to buy relatively healthier products.


American Marketing Association

Journal reference:

Lim, JH, et al. (2020) Competitive Effects of Introducing Nutrition Labeling on the Front of the Package on Nutritional Quality: Evidence from Facts on the Front Label. Marketing magazine. /10.1177 /0022242920942563.

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