The Jungle of Food Labels: A study of the Danish consumers' perceptions and attitudes towards food labels in an individual and sociocultural context

Camilla Schytte Andersen & Johanne Nini Eriksen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Background: During the last 20 years, the number of consumer labels has exploded resulting in 50 labels in the Danish market place. These labels are intended to make it easier for the Danish consumers to choose the right products, whereby a paradox seems to have arisen between the purpose and the amount of labels. The objective: The increasing amount of labels’ impact must be understood in the light of the consumers’ relationship to these labels. Thus, the objective of this thesis is to achieve an understanding of the Danish consumers’ perceptions and attitudes towards food labels in an individual and sociocultural context. The term food label underlines the thesis’ focus on consumer labels on foods. Philosophical- and theoretical foundation: Social constructivism serves as the scientific foundation of the thesis, whereby hermeneutics and dialectics play a central role. Thus, theories belonging to the interpretive turn of research of consumer behaviour are used to understand the results of our studies. Methods: The thesis is built around a partnership model as we have conducted our studies in corporation with Omnicom Media Group. Through this corporation, we have gained access to the data from a quantitative e-survey and we have participated in the carrying out of 15 qualitative in-depth interviews. Thus, the thesis takes a multi-methodical approach. Findings: The interpretation of the results from the two studies generated four themes. Food labels as a jungle deals with the consumers’ confusion about the amount of labels. Food labels as the bleeding obvious refers to the perception of nutritional food labels as paternalism. Food labels as dogmatism deals with the perception of the red Ø-logo as fake, whereas Food labels as symbols of the conscious consumer refers to the perception of this label as the right thing to buy and as an expression of personal attitudes and convictions. Conclusions and managerial implications: The four themes indicate the multifarious perceptions and attitudes towards food labels. For some consumers, nutritional food labels are perceived as restrictions, whereas the organic food label is perceived as fraud by others. Others perceive the red Ø-logo as a part of their lifestyles and identities. Additionally, most of the consumers are confused about the amount of labels. Thus, our findings have resulted in five recommendations to the Danish authorities and producers of foods: * Reduce the amount of food labels * Different target audiences – different communication * Lay down guidelines for consistent communication * Different food labels – different communication * Narrate the “good” story

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages191