Online product information: To trust or not to trust?

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

How to create trust with online product information?
How to create trust with online product information?
Gathering knowledge about food products online is popular among Australian consumers, but a new survey suggests it is not a medium they trust.

A survey, conducted by researchers at RMIT University and GS1 Australia, set out to find what information consumers looked for when buying food products and which channels are most trusted.

In total, 298 respondents spanning all states of Australia from metropolitan and regional areas participated in the survey between October 25 and November 25 2011 via a self-completion questionnaire. 

Steven Pereira, chief information officer at GS1 Australia, said survey findings showed that printed food labels, which have been the primary delivery medium of food product information for some time, will continue to be so.

“But as consumers are looking for more product information, the challenge now is to develop credible and reliable electronic sources that can provide a wide range of detailed information about food, which consumers will trust,”​ Pereira said.

Results indicated that, electronic delivery media are not particularly trusted (with the possible exception of general Internet sources).

A majority of survey participants (79%) agreed that they trusted printed food labels more than general Internet sources as a delivery medium of food product information.

An eighth of participants also said traditional print labels were more trust-worthy than smartphone applications.

This is a significant finding, researchers said, as electronic media, particularly those embedded in smartphone devices, appears to represent the future of food labelling.

Igniting trust is key

Prof, Caroline Chan, who led the research team from RMIT School of Business IT and Logistics, said that it was clear that while consumers are “ comfortable using electronic technology for other routine tasks, they do not currently trust it as a key media channel of food product information.”

“It is vital for industry, especially brand owners, to understand why and therefore how we can achieve higher levels of trust in the future,”​ Chan added.

The majority of the respondents agreed that traditional labelling provided sufficient information, but only half of respondents trusted food manufacturers to outline ingredients composition, health benefits and environmental benefits.

A majority preferred health professionals, scientists, government sources and health-related associations as a trust-worthy source.

What are consumers looking for?

Findings of the survey showed that 70% of Australians considered nutritional information most important on food products, the ingredients list came in next (66%) followed by 65% looking for trusted brands.

Making healthier choices was the top reason to study product information, it showed, while another was personal interest, indicated by slightly less.

When purchasing a food product for the first time, price was reviewed (85%), use by date (81%) and best before date (79%).

Only 32% of the participants looked at % of Recommended Dietary Intake (% RDI) at the point of sale, with very few participants, just 5%, always looking for this information, the survey found.

Researchers suggested this indicated a general lack of understanding about this information, or that these details are only salient at the point of consumption rather than point of sale.

Sugar content and fat content were the most frequently scrutinised nutrients on the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP), with 60–62% of participants checking for such content.

Moderate interest was shown in the ingredients list, with 61% of participants checking it prior to a first-time purchase but about 34% of the participants looked for the presence of possible allergenic ingredients on the label.

Related topics Research

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