April 2022

· 3 min read

Healthy Eats: NSF Survey Decodes Food Labels

Do you find reading food labels boring and confusing? Our survey results suggest quick tips to shorten this task and highlight what to look for.
A woman is reading a food label at a grocery store - Healthy Eats: NSF Survey Decodes Food Labels | NSF

These days, many of us are trying to make healthier food choices. But a trek to the grocery store can seem daunting when you’re trying to decipher what all the complicated ingredients and food labeling means.

From organic veggies to plant-based meat and cage-free eggs, understanding the many terms is no small feat. In fact, more than half of consumers say they’re often confused by the changing information on what they’re supposed to do to lead a healthy lifestyle, according to the 2022 Whole Living Consumer Database Report by the Natural Marketing Institute®.

To help you better understand food labels and to make healthy food choices easier (and to affirm that you’re not alone in your confusion!), we surveyed almost 51,000 people who shared their views on food labeling via NSF LinkedIn and Twitter polls.

How good are you at reading food labels? More than half of consumers say they’re often confused by the changing information on what they’re supposed to do to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The survey provided insights on topics including who’s responsible for influencing our understanding of food labeling (close tie between Uncle Sam and food stores), what kind of creamer we prefer in our coffee (overwhelmingly dairy) and whether we would make better food choices if labeling was on the front of the package (about three-fourths of people said yes).

Other interesting facts:

  • More than half of the people we surveyed look mainly at nutritional values on food labels.
  • More than half call meat substitute foods “plant-based.”
  • There were differences between the Twitter and LinkedIn answers. On LinkedIn, 68% of people surveyed say they want to learn more when they hear of a new environmentally friendly claim on a food label. But 61% of people we surveyed on Twitter say they want to do nothing in the same circumstance.

Here’s what else you had to say:

  1. The biggest responsibility for influencing food labeling lies with the government and food manufacturers.
  2. When you read the term “environmentally friendly” on a food label, you want to learn more (LinkedIn) or do nothing (Twitter).
  3. Most of you use dairy milk in your coffee, with oat milk being the up-and-coming competitor.
  4. For those who purchase organic food, nearly half on LinkedIn and only one-fifth on Twitter do so because it’s better for their health. Over half of the people who responded on Twitter (and a third on LinkedIn) say they don’t buy organic food.
  5. If the front of a food package showed key nutrition facts, you would make healthier food choices (68% on LinkedIn, 43% on Twitter).
  6. The main thing you look at on a food label is nutritional values.
  7. Many of you would describe a meat substitute as “plant-based,” though some just call it “fake meat” (36% on Twitter).

What do you think? We want your input. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to learn more and participate in future polls.

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