Labels, logos, signs: how do consumers stay informed?

Dossier

The number of labels, logos and signs at the point of sale is increasing. Producers, retailers and politicians expect consumers to understand and use all of this information in their purchasing decisions. But consumers feel challenged by the huge variety of information given.


Label, logos and signs are important instruments to inform consumers about specific product attributes such as brand, specific aspects of production or producer.

Consumers aim at satisfying their needs while shopping for food. These needs can be elementary ones – the purchase of food serves our basic need to feed ourselves – or they can be augmented with demands for quality, specific production styles, ingredients or safety. Consumers aim at buying products which satisfy their needs in the best way possible. A precondition is that they know about the specific product attributes.

The amount of information offered by labels, logos and signs severely challenges consumers when they have to select the specific information relevant for their individual purchasing decision. This process is not always successful, i.e., when relevant information is difficult to understand or not available.

In some areas laws exist which regulate the use of labels and logos. By doing this the government fulfils its task to provide information and to simultaneously increase transparency for consumers. These aims can only be achieved if labels, and also the underlying standards, are relevant, perceptible and understandable from a consumer’s perspective. We are investigating whether the (governmental) standards are in line with consumers’ expectations, if consumers are aware of labels and logos, if they understand them and which measures are to be taken to increase transparency.