Packaging Innovation
January 20, 2014

Food packaging labels ‘Free of’ are real product sellers!

Many food products carry labels that give the consumer information about what’s in it and what’s not. A recent study reveals that especially the latter – i.e. labels that give information about what’s not in the product – are the real sellers. Consumers are even willing to pay more for products that include negative information on whatever the product is “free of”.

Walking through the food section of your local supermarket you may come across food packaging designs carrying an extra label. Many preserved food packaging, for instance, have the label “Free of food dye” to indicate to consumers they are buying healthy food. The evident question, of course, is: are these labels effective?

A recent study indicates they are! The Cornell University conducted a laboratory study with 351 shoppers to investigate the impact of labels and secondary information on consumers’ willingness to pay for food. As it turns out, food packaging with the aforementioned “free of” labels are doing it really well in supermarkets. In fact, those labels compel some consumers to buy the product. Yet, even more effective are labels that also include negative information about the risks of ingesting the product this particular food is free of.

So for instance cans that carry the label “Free of food dyes” are good but become even better when the brand includes supplementary information about the negative effects of food dyes. “Free of food dyes causing cancer to more than 10.000 Americans every year” is more effective, increasing consumers’ willingness to pay more, the study reveals.

According to the study the reason is that consumers are more confident about their shopping decisions when they are provided with valuable information. When they know what they are buying they’re willing to pay extra. Especially health related aspects are real sellers. A valuable lesson for all food brands, then, is to name potentially harmful ingredients that are left out of the product on the label.