A study by researchers at the University of Technology Sydney has found that parents are interested in star ratings indicating nutritional value but it’s the colour of the cereal that influenced most.
In the study, the researchers varied numerous front-of-pack elements to see whether parents altered their purchasing decisions. A total of 520 parents with a child aged between five and 11 years took part in the research, published in the international journal Appetite.
The Australian government introduced a Health Star Rating (HSR) system in 2014 to help consumers identify healthier options within a product category and several companies have since adopted this voluntary system. A product’s nutritional value is represented by a visual star rating that ranges from half a star to a top rating of five stars. In addition, a summary panel of nutrient facts contains information on four “risk” nutrients (energy, sugar, saturated fat and sodium) and one positive nutrient (such as dietary fibre or protein).
“We’re not saying the health star rating system is perfect, but we did find consumers chose the five-star rated product over two-star rated options or those with no star rating information at all,” said Consumer Behaviour Researcher Assoc Prof Paul Burke.
“Consumers were more likely to reject a product because it was artificial looking in terms of being blue, green, pink and purple. On the other hand, they chose a product just because it was yellowish like other cereals or brown like bran in colour.”