Label reading is a key element of how the nutritional, environmental or intrinsic components of a product are “summed up and learned” by consumers. The range of words, images and symbols on today’s food and beverage packaging is diverse and highly complex. While on-package marketing and communications have historically been the purview of manufacturers, to complicate matters, now retailers are involved in building sophisticated store brands, thus providing yet another source of packaging labels and cues shoppers routinely sort through.

In the world of food and beverage consumer packaged goods, product labeling provides manufacturers an opportunity to inform, educate and influence. From nutrition facts to ingredients and product narratives to health claims, it’s all on the label.

Hardly a day goes by without media reporting on the newly discovered health benefits of one food or nutrient—and the woeful dangers of another. This is made all the more confusing when the same report tells us to avoid certain foods found to be harmful to our health, and then told later about a new study that refutes earlier findings…

With so much conflicting information being disseminated, who can blame consumers for irrational purchase behavior when it comes to food choices? In an effort to maintain a modicum of control over their health and nutrition, many consumers refer to product labeling information in search of answers. What each consumer looks for—or to avoid—varies according to his or her priorities and wellness goals and aspirations.

The Hartman Group has created infographics, based on its market research, to depict what consumers look for on food and beverage product labels and the types of information they read or consider when deciding what to purchase (see “What Consumers Want on Food Labels” and “Path to Purchase: Package Information and Label Reading”).

Above all else, consumers want choice. They want to be able to choose a healthy option on some occasions and indulgent options on others. Consumers’ desire for choice is consistent across the wellness spectrum—choices in the brands they buy, the products they use and information they look to.