Consumers’ views and use of labels on food items sold in Bulawayo urban province, Zimbabwe
Food labels are a medium by which consumers acquire knowledge about packaged foods they are considering to purchase. The label makes the first impression about a product and has a great effect on the purchasing decision for consumers. In recent years, literate consumers have become interested in nutritional issues. Lifestyle, age, dietary and safety concerns have been the contributing factors to nutritional awareness by consumers. Nutritional labels can generally have a positive impact on food consumption and may save health-care costs for those consumers with health concerns. On the other hand, for those consumers who are illiterate, price may be more important in making purchase decisions. This study intended to investigate how consumers in Bulawayo Urban Province (Zimbabwe) view and use labels on packaged food items. Seventy-five randomly selected consumers were questioned about their perceptions, attitudes and use of label information using open ended structured questionnaires. The consumers were selected on the basis of being present at the supermarkets at the time of sampling. The respondents were interviewed at different times of the day to cater for employed and unemployed people. The results obtained indicate that the extent to which food labels are used depends on factors such as price of food products, individual health needs and gender. For consumers who use food labels to make their purchase decisions, not all the information on the label is considered. Items on the labels to which the consumers responded were brand, nutritional profile and mass of product in relation to the price. The label elements which were extensively used by consumers in this study are date mark (81.3%), weight of food (89.3%) and price (77.3%). The least used element is the nutritional panel (50.7%). About 44% of the consumers were not sure about the trustworthiness of the information given on food labels. Food labels are important to a greater extent for people with special dietary requirements, while the remainder of the studied population are influenced by price in their purchase decisions. Consumers seem not to understand some of the information on the food labels because of the difficulties in interpreting what is written.
Keywords: Consumer, packaged food, labels, nutrition, nutritional panel, perceptions, purchase, behaviour
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