Two experiments are reported that examined consumers' perceptions of food package labels where health and nutrition claims were present and where they had been removed. Unlike previous studies examining the influence of information on perception, realistic materials were used. This was accomplished by presenting information on a computer as photo-realistic images of packages where claims had been removed by editing to give a without-claims condition. Automatic presentation of materials and data collection meant participants proceeded through the computer questionnaire without the presence of an experimenter. The experiment was conducted with both British and French consumers. No significant difference on purchase intention or attitude to purchase was found between conditions with either population sample.
The British group showed a significant trend to rate products as likely to be approved by those whose opinion they regarded as important in the claims condition. French participants showed a similar effect whereby packages without claims were always perceived as significantly beneficial with a low subjective norm effect and a mixture of both factors with claims present. In both population samples, label information provision was evaluated more highly than a collection of single sensory and nutritional attributes. Multiple regressions against attitude to purchase showed that sensory attributes were given higher weighting than nutritional or direct label attitude measures with both groups. Argument that health and nutrition claims are likely to have very large effects on consumers' buying patterns thus may be treated with caution. These results suggest that from a marketing perspective where claims are relevant they should be given a subsidiary position to claims about sensory qualities.