Developing a Digital Toolkit to Enhance the Communication of Scientific Health Claims

The aim of this project is to develop a ‘prosumerist’ digital toolkit– informed by research in linguistics, information design, nutritional science and behavioural economics—to gather information that will help manufacturers and marketers communicate more effectively about the health benefits of food and help consumers make more informed choices.

Consumers often neither understand nor trust health claims on food packages, and so are not able to use them to make informed personal nutrition choices. One reason for this is that regulations focus more on the ‘truth value’ of the claims rather than on whether or not consumers can easily understand them.  Manufacturers and marketers may also lack information about how people interpret and respond to different linguistic and graphic elements on packages, especially when it comes to scientific information.

This project brings together a unique combination of researchers and professionals with expertise in linguistics, information design, behavioural economics, health and nutrition, and computer science working in partnership with manufacturers, retailers, NGOs and food start-ups to develop an empirically based set of guidelines for how to communicate health claims more effectively.

These guidelines will be developed using an online digital toolkit which will engage consumers in educational and entertaining activities to determine how they interact with health claims on different kinds of products when they are worded differently or appear in combination with different graphical elements (font, colour, pictures, etc.). These online interactions with consumers will provide valuable information on how people from different backgrounds understand health claims and how these claims influence their willingness to purchase particular products, and will form the basis for recommendations on how to improve the communication of health claims.

Project Leadership: Rodney Jones – University of Reading

Participating organisations: