Nutritional Labeling

A study that was recently published in the BMC of Public Health examined the effects of a multimedia promotional campaign on trends regarding the sales of food products containing the Nordic Keyhole health symbol. This health symbol campaign was tailored to appeal to males over the age of 35 with limited educational attainment.


An array of unique nutritional labeling strategies have been enacted (some of these mandatory, while others have been voluntary) with the objective of encouraging consumers to select healthier food options when shopping. A number of studies have investigated the effects of a variety of nutritional labeling interventions into consumer shopping behaviors and have yielded inconclusive results. These mixed results from studies could mean that although consumers understand the nutritional labels and could use them, they may not be motivated enough or might not look closely enough to notice labels while shopping. Some research has suggested that health symbols placed on shelves and food packaging (which does not contain details such as calories, nutrients, or other numerical information) might be promising alternatives to detailed nutrition labels. Research aimed at measuring the effects of such health symbols on consumers’ use of products with these symbols remains understudied. A new study’s purpose was to analyze the effects of the Nordic Keyhole health symbol through a multi-media campaign method. The data collection methods employed were reviewing sales data of Keyhole food products during and after the campaign, secondly in-store observations and interviews with customers.

Six retail grocery chains participated in the study and 1411 respondents were subsequently recruited from four grocery chains. The Keyhole media campaign targeted men over 35 years of age with limited education. Overall, the health promotional campaign positively affected the sale of Keyhole food products in two of the three retail chains included in sales analyses. Effects of the campaign on Keyhole product sales varied significantly between the categories of food products. Importantly, the sales of Keyhole products increased by approximately 20% in two grocery chains.

Statistical analysis of the in-store interview data indicated that there was a higher probability consumers would likely perceive health as a food shopping motive and seek out nutritional information although they had limited formal education after the campaign.

The results demonstrated that it is possible to alter food shopping behavior among individuals with limited education through a carefully tailored campaign involving a health symbol.

Future research efforts should explore the long-term effects of similarly structured health symbol interventions and make an effort to examine food product purchases at the individual level.


Written By: Melissa Booker

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