You’re probably familiar with the traffic light system for labelling the nutritional values of food but would having a label which displayed the environmental impact of foods make any difference to consumers?
Researcher, Christina Potter, wanted to test this so she arranged four focus groups in June 2019 to look into this very question. Overall 25 people took part and provided feedback about three key areas of knowledge:
- Considerations people prioritise when purchasing food.
- Knowledge about how food production impacts the environment and how significant this is felt to be.
- Feedback on different versions of eco-labels and how well understood they are.
Participants were also given the chance to design an eco-label which they felt communicated key information as effectively as possible.
What we learned about participants’ considerations when choosing food
There was no clear agreement on the key determinants involved in choosing food. Participants plumped for a range of factors and the top three ranked criteria were ‘Nutritional value’, ‘convenience’ and ‘taste’. This has prompted researchers to consider the complexity of the considerations linked to selecting food products.
What we learned about participants’ knowledge of food production and its impact on the environment
Participants were asked to describe the ways in which they think food and food production impact the environment. This generated a discussion of a wide range of environmental issues, summarised in the word cloud below:
This feedback is useful for our research because it’s a reminder of the many factors that consumers may be weighing in their minds when making purchasing decisions.
What we learned about how well understood our proposed ecolabels are
Participants were asked to compare different ways of displaying environmental impact indicators on food packaging and to comment on their effectiveness. You can see a range of the different designs below.
Participants also offered their own eco-label designs. Here are some of the ingenuous suggestions.
The key considerations flagged by participants in the word cloud are shown below. Notably, participants felt that an ecolabel must be easy-to-understand, visible (with an appropriate size and placement on the packet), and use colours to help guide consumers to more environmentally-friendly choices.
We learned a great deal from the focus groups and will be feeding this forward into shaping future research. We are very grateful to our focus group participants for their time and input into this project.