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Third Newsletter, May 2016

Welcome to our 3rd newsletter where you can read about how health claims and symbols can influence what we consume and whether familiarity of a claim affects our food choices. Another topic in this newsletter: What were the effects of introducing health symbols in Denmark (the Nordic Keyhole) and in the Netherlands (the Choices logo)?

We further introduce you to two new lead researchers of the CLYMBOL project, Ellen van Kleef and Sinne Smed, who talk about their research and what impact they hope it will have.

If you are interested in more CLYMBOL results, don't miss out on registering for the final conference which takes place on 15 June 2016 in Brussels. Only a few seats are left!

Register for the final conference here.

We have also just released a series of podcasts where we give you even more results from the project. Listen to them here.

The influence of health symbols on consumption behaviour

Buffet 2People sometimes eat more than necessary of a food product when they think it’s healthy, because they believe they are doing something for their health and do not consider the actual calories they consume. This is called the ‘licensing effect’ and has been observed in several studies. There are concerns that using health claims and symbols to identify healthy food products could lead to this ‘licensing effect’, resulting in people consuming more calories than they need. Thus, leading to overweight and the opposite effect than intended. CLYMBOL studies showed that health symbols do not lead to such a licensing effect and, therefore, do not contribute to people consuming more calories than needed.

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A satiety claim does not influence how full you feel

Previous research showed that people tend to anticipate how full a certain food will keep them until the next meal. This anticipation is based on their past experience eating this food. Therefore, people expect different levels of satiety (fullness) for different foods. For that reason, these satiety expectations are a good predictor of how much people will eat. CLYMBOL researchers examined whether these satiety expectations and the calories people consume are influenced by external factors such as satiety claims.

Study participants were given muesli with different amounts of calories (300 vs 600 kcal) and a satiety claim (‘this muesli contains added fibre, therefore you will feel full for a longer time period’) on the cereal package. CLYMBOL researchers tested whether the claim influenced the participants’ feeling of fullness and results showed that this was not the case.

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The influence of familiarity of a health claim

In a typical shopping situation, we know that it is important that the wording of health claims should be easy and understandable. However, it also seems important that these claims contain a certain amount of new information as researchers from the University of Saarland discovered. If the claim is too familiar, people’s attention to the claim decreases and they are less likely to choose the product. Adding new information, however, to the claim may increase people’s attention again and prevent this ‘wear-out’ effect. When study participants were ‘primed’ (meaning influenced), e.g. by seeing a display of a healthy breakfast promotion stand in the supermarket, they paid more attention towards the health claims on food packages. This is a first indicator that a shopping environment which promotes healthy eating can lead to healthier purchases.

These results were found by exposing study participants to different versions of a health claim in an experimental supermarket in Germany and data was obtained using eye-tracking glasses and questionnaires.

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Introduction of health symbols in Denmark and the Netherlands

Consumers value healthy food products (i.e. those that carry a health symbol) more than those that do not have such a symbol (i.e. less healthy products) finds CLYMBOL. The addition of a health symbol provides additional value to the product, demonstrated by consumers’ willingness to pay more for these products.

The Nordic Keyhole and the Dutch Choices logo identify a healthier choice in a food category, making it easier for consumers to find products which contain less fat, sugar and salt, and more whole grains and fibres. The Choices logo was introduced in the Netherlands in 2006, while the Keyhole was introduced 2009 in Denmark. CLYMBOL researchers have analysed the household purchase data from both countries and could show different developments of the labelled food product markets.

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Researcher Portraits

In this newsletter we introduce Dr Ellen van Kleef from Wageningen University and Dr Sinne Smed from the University of Copenhagen.

Ellen van KleefDr Ellen van Kleef is an associate professor at the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour group at Wageningen University. She researches how to help people eat healthily and self-regulate what they eat. She has been responsible for the consumption studies in the CLYMBOL project. Ellen’s team wanted to understand whether claims, symbols or other package elements change the inferences consumers draw from a food or drink (e.g. ‘this must be really healthy’) and whether this influences their eating behaviour.

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Sinne SmedDr Sinne Smed is an associate professor in consumer behaviour and health at the University of Copenhagen. She researches how to regulate, understand and explain people’s behaviour towards a healthy diet. She has been responsible for analysing data of households purchases in CLYMBOL.Together with her team, she investigated the effect the introduction of two health symbols (the Nordic Keyhole and The Dutch Choices logo) may have had on Dutch and Danish consumer food purchases.

Read more

New CLYMBOL podcasts

Interested in more information about Ellen van Kleef’s research? Listen to her podcasts to learn more about how food packaging influences our perception of a food and our satiety expectations. Erica van Herpen, who is also an associate professor at Wageningen University, further reveals how images on a package and health goals affect people’s choice of food products in her podcast. Judit Simon and Ildikó Kemény from Corvinus University of Budapest talk here about the effect of visual elements on a package and how it can attract attention to a food product carrying a health claim. 

Listen to the podcasts here.

Don't miss the Final Conference!

CLYMBOL's researchers will present the outcomes of their studies at the stakeholder conference on June 15 2016 at the Stanhope Hotel in Brussels. We will talk about the prevalence of claims in Europe, how effective they are in identifying healthier foods and how they relate to our current disease burden. We will also focus on how consumers classify, interpret and process health claims – with results from several European countries.

We’ll present our methodological toolbox and discuss which methods are best suited to answer which questions. We will also delve more into depth on our findings from the work described in this newsletter. Additionally, there will be a stakeholder workshop where all project findings are translated into implications and recommendations – with a live voting to collect real-time feedback. Lastly, we offer you an exclusive expert panel who will discuss the results of the CLYMBOL project from their own perspective.

Learn more about the conference here and sign up for free!

Any Questions?

Check out our FAQ page – there you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions around health claims and symbols, and CLYMBOL!

Specific questions or do you want to get in contact with members of the CLYMBOL project?
Contact us under This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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