A critical review of the significance of food labelling during consumer decision making
Food purchase decisions are generally considered less complex compared to the activities involved when choosing other household commodities. This literature review aims to indicate that multiple factors have been complicating consumers’ food purchases in recent years and that the intricacy of food purchasing has probably been neglected to date. In addition, food choices are generally made in the store, and limited time is in most instances devoted to food purchases. In this review, the consequences of limited time and increased consumer demands concerning type and quality of food products, the overwhelming choice of food products that are available in retail outlets, as well as pertinent global issues that consumers are confronted with on an almost daily basis in the media, are discussed in terms of consumers’ need for product information, their demands in terms of food labelling and obstacles they are confronted with in terms of rational decision making. The discussion attends to external influences that affect and even confuse consumers regarding the information required to enable informed food choices, also indicating how personal factors influence consumers’ need and requirements in terms of food product information, as well as their ability to interpret product information and to evaluate products. The importance of this information throughout the consumer decision-making process is discussed, suggesting that this process is probably more complex than consumers care to admit. The type and availability of information and the physical format of labels pose pertinent challenges for industry, considering the diverse population of South Africa. Recommendations are made for future research, emphasising the need for consumer education programmes to encourage more realistic expectations of food labels and an optimisation of food label information in terms of informed consumer decision making.