Helen L Mitchell
ABSTRACT The glycemic concept is already being used as a means of differentiating products in the food industry. The aim of this summary is to show how the glycemic concept is being used by the food manufacturing industry, how it is perceived and understood by consumers, and how different countries rate its importance in terms ofregulatory provision and consequent labeling implications. The use of the glycemic index (GI) is the most prominent form of labeling in the marketplace to date, and the use of GI symbol programs and other labeling initiatives are considered. The Australian market has been exposed to the GI phenomenon the longest, and consumer awareness in this market is very high. However, on a global scale, the pictureis very different, and consumer awareness varies considerably. A broader view of how the global consumer uses nutritional labels is given. I also review how consumers are willing to adopt foods that offer health benefits in general and, more specifically, from the glycemic concept. I also summarize aspects to be addressed for consumers to benefit from the glycemic concept in action in the longerterm. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(suppl):244S– 6S. KEY WORDS Glycemic concept, glycemic index, GI, consumer health, labeling INTRODUCTION
between countries. The biggest reason given for checking a label was, “When I’m thinking of buying a product for the first time,” a reason given by 41% of respondents globally. Consequently, it is in the manufacturers’ best interest to help consumers interpret theinformation on food labels to ensure they find what they need.
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Do consumers understand the nutritional label? The United States led all nations, with 65% of respondents claiming to “mostly” understand nutritional information on food packaging, although again there was wide variation between countries. The globalaverage was 43% of respondents. Manufacturers use food labels to differentiate their products and to enhance consumer trust, but this is a moot point if labels are not read. There is still some work to be done in getting consumers more involved in using product labels, including nutritional labels, to influence buying decisions. Does mandatory labeling increase the use of nutritional information?Of the 38 countries surveyed, 6 have some form of mandatory nutritional labeling (Canada, United States, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia). The global average for “understanding” labels was 43% of respondents. The scores for understanding in these 6 countries were higher than the average, except for Malaysia: Canada, 61%; United States, 65%; Brazil, 49%; Australia, 55%; New Zealand,61%; Malaysia, 22%. The mandatory presence of nutritional labeling does not seem to lead to a greater frequency of use; respondents in the 6 countries were not significantly more likely to “always” check a label (except for Brazil at 52% of respondents, all other countries were 29% of respondents, and the global average was 21% of all respondents). This suggests that the more consumers are exposedto nutritional labeling, the more educated they become. What information are consumers seeking? A global average indicates that fat, calories, and sugar are the items checked most often. GI is checked by 7% of respondents as a global average. It is claimed that relatively few persons check the GI because very few companies are including the information
From Danisco Sweeteners Ltd, Surrey, UnitedKingdom. Presented at an ILSI Europe workshop titled “Glycemic Response and Health,” held in Nice, France, on 6-8 December 2006. 3 Address reprint requests to ILSI Europe. E-mail: publications@ ilsieurope.be. 4 Address correspondence to HL Mitchell, c/o Danisco Sweeteners Ltd, Application Centre, 41-51 Brighton Road, Redhill, Surrey RH1 6YS, United Kingdom. E-mail: N11elb@aol.com.