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Introduction of health symbols in Denmark and the Netherlands

Keyhole logoChoices logoThe Nordic Keyhole and the Choices logo are both health symbols. The Choices logo was introduced in the Netherlands in 2006, whereas the Keyhole was introduced 2009 in Denmark. Both logos identify a healthier choice in a certain food category, to make it easier for consumers to find products which contain less fat, sugar and salt, and more whole grains and fibres. To use the logos on a food package, the food must fulfil certain nutritional criteria.

CLYMBOL researchers have analysed household purchase data from Denmark and the Netherlands. The data came from consumers who have signed up to household panels, and as part of their obligations, scan and report their purchases every day.

It could be shown that the markets for labelled food products in Denmark and the Netherlands developed differently after the introduction of a health symbol. In the Netherlands, the purchase of labelled products has decreased since the introduction of the logo, whereas there seems to be an increase in purchased labelled food in Denmark. However, this study cannot prove a causal connection to the introduction of the health symbols and other factors like a trend towards healthy eating might have also influenced these trends.

There were also differences concerning organic food. In the Netherlands, fewer organic food products carried the Choices logo compared to conventional products. In comparison, Danish organic food products carried the Keyhole more often. Therefore, if Dutch consumers want to buy organic products with a health symbol, this might not be possible and limit their purchases. It is, however, important to keep in mind that the Danish organic market is larger than the Dutch one. Another difference between the countries was that less products carrying a health symbol were purchased from discount stores in the Netherlands, while there was almost no difference found between discounters and supermarkets in Denmark. The lower supply of food carrying health symbols from discounters in the Netherlands might be a limiting factor, hindering people from buying food with health symbols. However, the discounters have a larger share of all purchases in Denmark compared to the Netherlands.

There were also different trends of who buys labelled products, but no specific consumer type could be found in either country. In the Netherlands, women in a household were more likely to buy labelled food products. No clear distinction could be made for the Danish data. In contrast, higher age led to a lower probability of purchasing labelled products in Denmark which was not observed in the Netherlands. The probability of buying a labelled product increased with higher education in Denmark and higher income in the Netherlands.

Results suggest that consumers value healthy food products (i.e. those who carry a health symbol) higher than unhealthy products. The use of a health symbol on a food package seems to create additional value for consumers, for most product categories. This can be seen by consumers’ willingness to pay more for these products. However, other values such as quality and appearance of the food product also influence consumer valuation of a product – these could not be analysed here.


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