Breakfast cereals are quite popular around the world because they are convenient and filling. A number of breakfast cereal brands, however, make outlandish health claims, promising weight loss, heart health and a number of other claims. Health experts have time and again warned against the health impacts of these sugary breakfast cereals that may also contain preservatives and artificial flavourings. A recent paper published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing examined the claims printed on breakfast cereal boxes and concluded that the correlation between claims and the action nutritional facts of these cereals was almost non-existent or zero. It is mandated by government bodies to print complete nutrition information on the packaging of every commercially available food product.
However, consumers rarely look at these labels and instead get affected by marketing gimmicks that often involve health claims that may not hold true. The paper titled, “Healthy Through Presence or Absence, Nature or Science?: A Framework For Understanding Front-of-Package Food Claims” contained the analysis of four different studies. The researchers looked at the differences between the breakfast cereal nutrition claims and the brands’ actual nutritional content. They also analysed how consumers reacted to these claims while making buying decisions. They found that these claims by individual products rarely reflected the actual ingredients of the cereals and also were not true to their claims of weight loss or other aspects of health.
They concluded that nutrition labels were more accurate in giving consumers an idea of how a particular food can help a person, or harm them. The study report said, “Food products claim to be healthy in many ways, but prior research has investigated these claims at either the macro level (using broad descriptions such as “healthy” or “tasty”) or the micro level (using single claims such as “low fat”)…They find that claim type is completely uncorrelated to actual nutrition quality yet influences inferences consumers make about taste, healthiness, and dieting” Talking about consumer buying habits, the authors said, “Despite the lack of association between claim type and objective nutritional quality, consumers expect claim type to be a strong predictor of the healthiness, taste, and dieting properties of breakfast cereals.”