Australians are using smartphones and the internet more than ever before while they shop.
But the majority of consumers do not trust online product information sources as much as printed labels, according to the results of a recent consumer survey conducted by RMIT University and GS1 Australia, a not-for-profit standards organisation.
The study’s authors described it as “one stand-out result” that traditional printed materials are consistently the most trusted medium for product information.
“When sourcing general product information, most respondents place their trust in printed labels (64 per cent), and printed brochures and fact sheets (54 per cent), compared to 37 per cent for the general internet sources, and just 16 per cent for other electronic sources, including social media and smartphone applications. Mobile text messaging services were the least trusted media (nine per cent).
The survey also reveals four out of five respondents trust printed food labels more than smartphone apps, and 79 per cent trust printed food labels more than the internet.
When asked to rate their confidence level of product information sourced from various parties, respondents indicated social media as the least trusted sources for product information (11 per cent), while health professionals, scientists, government health and regulatory bodies and health-related associations are the most trusted sources (80-83 per cent). Food manufacturers and family and friends came out equal at 52 per cent.
Professor Caroline Chan, who led the research team from RMIT School of Business IT and Logistics, said the results provide the food industry with valuable insights into what consumers are looking for when it comes to printed labels and other channels, such as mobile apps.
“Although 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.”
The study also highlighted the ‘most important’ information to consumers when they buy a food product for the first time. Nutritional information came out on top (70 per cent), followed closely by the list of ingredients (66 per cent) and trusted brand (65 per cent).
On the nutritional information panel, sugar content and fat content are the most frequently scrutinised nutrients, with 60-62 per cent of respondents checking for these on first-time buys, while only 32 per cent look at the percentage of Recommended Daily Intake (% RDI) at the point of sale. The study suggests this may be due to a general lack of understanding about RDI information or its importance at the point of consumption, rather than at the point of sale.
Steven Pereira, GS1 Australia’s CIO, said brand owners need to understand what information consumers are looking for, and how best to deliver this to consumers via channels they will use and trust.
“Printed food labels have been the primary deliverer of food product information for some time, and the survey shows no signs of this decreasing. 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,” he said.