How, when and why do young women use nutrition information on food labels? A qualitative analysis

Charlotte Wahlich, Benjamin Gardner, Laura McGowan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Nutrition information (NI) on food packaging offers a public health tool that could be used to promote informed consumer choice and aid consumption of a healthy diet. Research indicates that the use of NI can lead to reduced energy intake and lower BMI, but little evidence is available regarding how, when or why people use NI when making everyday food choices.Methods: This qualitative study explored motivations and contexts surrounding the use of NI among 25 UK-based female NI users aged 23-35 years, using semi-structured individual interviews. Verbatim transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.Results: Six themes were identified: (1) understanding and (2) functions of NI, (3) health versus appearance motives, NI use in (4) affective and (5) symbolic food episodes, and (6) competing point-of-purchase influences. Notable observations included a difficulty in understanding and converting NI into personally meaningful terms, and eschewal of NI in settings where food plays an affective or symbolic role (e.g. food consumption after a stressful day, buying food for a dinner party).Conclusions: We suggest evidence-based directions for future research and offer policy and practice recommendations, including the adoption of clear and consistent NI formats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-216
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • diet
  • food choice
  • food labelling
  • motivation
  • nutrition information
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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