The Impact of Menu Label Design on Visual Attention, Food Choice and Recognition: An Eye Tracking Study

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Reale, S ; Flint, SW (2016)

© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.Nutritional labeling on menus has been found to promote informed food choices and reduce information asymmetry between manufacturers and consumers. However, lack of attention to nutritional labels limits their effectiveness. This study manipulated the way in which nutritional information was provided on menus in aim of enhancing visual attention to the most health relevant information. A between-subject design was implemented with three experimental conditions (nondirective label; directive label; semidirective label). A total of 84 participants chose meals off a starter, main and desert menu whilst their eye movements were tracked using Tobii eye tracking software. Results showed that the menu labels did not significantly differ in their attentional gaining properties, however, the use of color and health logos led participants to choose meals containing significantly less calories compared to when nutritional information was presented in black text alone. These findings indicate that nutritional information should be provided in color or as health logos as this has the largest impact on food choice. Practical Applications: A factor contributing to the rise in obesity prevalence is the obesogenic environment that we live in. The population has become increasingly reliant on convenience foods and dining out which has led to excess calorie consumption. Menu labeling has been identified as a possible intervention that could be employed by policy makers to guide informed food choices. However, there are calls for further actions and intervention to improve food choice as menu labeling has had mixed effects on consumer choice and consumption. This study suggests that menu labeling is a viable option when the nutritional information is presented in a visually salient way. The use of colors and health logos attracts consumer's attention to the most health relevant information which could contribute to efforts in reducing obesity and other illnesses linked to unhealthy consumption.
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