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Why consumers ignore nutrition info

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

nutrition facts label

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people using the labels were really low; students told us they don’t care about the information, or they already have a good idea of what it said.

Q: What type of information do guests want to see?

A: People who [read the cards] were very interested in macronutrients like calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates. Those who said they were not active users said they were more interested in seeing the smaller pieces of information, such as the ingredients, allergens and whether it’s local, vegan or vegetarian.

Q: What can operators do to create more effective signs?

A: More than anything, keep it simple. Color-coding can help, but keep in mind the potential for backfire. We’ve heard guests saying that they thought the red light options would taste better, so they ordered those. There’s definitely been a lot more research saying things need to be in context.  

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