Archived—Project Summaries 2006-2007 - Consumer Interest Alliance Inc. (CIAI)

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1. Readability of Food Product Labels


Recent consumer reviews of food labels conducted by CIAI have demonstrated that many food labels are poorly designed with sub-optimal typography. Consumer focus group participants and randomly selected shoppers in a large grocery store had difficulty reading much of the product label information including the ingredient list and essential product descriptions on selected food products. Some of the participants were unaware that there was any printing on some of the labels, as colour contrast of packaging and type were badly designed. Placement of information, contrast, print size, leading, print style, surface and reading the label through the container and contents are important variables in determining the ease of reading of product labels.

The proposed research will provide an analysis of the typographic design components used on food product labels. It will include an assessment of the ease of reading of different typographical presentations based on qualitative consumer research. Consumer preferences for presentation of mandatory information will be reported. Conclusions about the adequacy of current Canadian legislation and regulations that guide the presentation of mandatory label information will be made. Recommendations for the typographic design elements for mandatory label information will be made.

Phase 1 — May to August 2006

  • By teleconference, the contracted methodologist and the CIAI Volunteer Advisory Group (VAG) will assess and comment on the plan, which will be finalized between CIAI and the contracted researcher and project manager.
  • Prepare a background paper to brief the CIAI Volunteer Advisory Group on
    • Government of Canada statutes and regulations for mandatory food label information and typography requirements if any, and regulations and standards for voluntary food labelling,
    • a summary of the key components of typography and legibility of print designs, and
    • a review of the recent consumer literature on typography design and readability.
  • Collect and assess the design and typography of the mandatory information on the labels of popular brands of food product labels, using the validated typographical scoring system, "TVScore. "
    Note: The "TVScore" is based on the optimal zone of typography for ease of reading. Products will be analyzed according to specific design features, including: placement of mandatory information; column organization; illustrations; print organization and print style; contrast levels, see-through labels, and reverse print; use of specific print (e.g., serif); relative positioning of English and French text; light reflecting properties; size of product containers

Phase 2 — September to October 2006

  • A questionnaire will be developed for a profile of participants' demographic characteristics and to elicit participants' preferences for, and reported use of selected types of product label information. Data will be gathered on self-reported label reading habits, the importance of label information in making value for money choices, the usefulness and importance of product label characteristics, and the ranking and scaling of specific information on categories of product labels.
  • Focus group facilitator and participant guides will be developed. These guides will provide a series of themes to elicit commentary about label components and the ease of reading and to assist in the provision of recommendations.

Phase 3 — November 2006

  • Prepare for and teleconference with the CIAI Voluntary Advisory Group to obtain its comments on the findings of the environmental scan, to review best practices as identified in the literature, to review the labels selected, and to assess the relevance of tools developed for the focus group consultations, so identifying any constraints. Also review miscue analysis label choices. The methodologist/evaluator will participate in the teleconference.
  • Incorporate the input from the VAG into the resources for the thee following Focus Groups.
  • Identify a sample of consumers who have completed high school, are fluent in English or French, and meet other pre-determined criteria. Participation by those over 50 years of age will allow assessment of ease of reading of the non-optimal product labels and to identify possible corrective actions. This element of the research will be carried out in cooperation with an organized group representing this age group.
  • Conduct three regional Focus Groups; one will be held in French or will be bilingual.

Phase 4 — December 2006 to March 2007

  • The report will be drafted and provide an assessment of the inputs from focus groups, an analysis of the results of the miscue analysis, a review of the results of assessment of ease of reading of selected labels, and recommendations. The report will be structured for Federal, Provincial and Territorial policy consideration, and will include abstract summaries on key issues for wider review.
  • The Volunteer Advisory Group and the research consultants will meet in person for a 2-day session to review and discuss the Focus Group responses, and the researcher's recommendations. The VAG will provide suggested revisions to the draft report. The Methodologist/Evaluator might attend, either in person or by teleconference, in the last part of that session to jointly review and comment on its conclusions (January).
  • The communications plan will be finalized
  • The report will be finalized. The reports will be submitted to the Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • The report and communications plan will be provided to the methodologist/evaluator for review and written comment to be provided to OCA.

"Miscue analysis" will be used to assess label qualities on cheese product labels by a selected group of well-educated consumers, all aged over 50. The factors considered will include the number and type of miscues in oral reading, the ratings for ease of reading, and attractiveness, and the typography of similar instruction texts presented in different typographic designs (including symbols).