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Research

The research conducted within the CLYMBOL project is divided in the following five work areas.

research1Current status of health claims and symbols: Product supply

In Work Area 1, researchers will map the presence of health claims and symbols on the market, the context in which they appear, the products they are used on, and the criteria used for assigning symbols. Being aware of current use of health claims and symbols on the market is of key importance to achieve the project’s goals as a whole. Special attention will be given to country-wise differences in the history of the use of health claims and symbols, in order to incorporate their effects on the consumer’s understanding, purchasing and consumption of food and drink products into further analyses.

Current status of health claims and symbols: Consumer needs and wants

Work Area 2 will examine the needs and wants of European consumers by looking at consumers’ motivation and ability to process health-related information on food packages (‘consumer wants’). Concerning the objective ‘consumer needs’, differences in nutritional requirements for selected EU countries will be analysed.

Together with a study on how consumers categorise health claims, health symbols and their context, Work Area 2 will result in a framework of health claims, health symbols and their context – the basis for the remaining research in this project.

Methodological toolbox: Measuring the effect of health claims and symbols on understanding, purchasing and consumption

research3The aim of Work Area 3 is to develop a set of scientifically validated, state-of-the art methodologies to measure how health claims and health symbols, in their context, are understood by consumers, and how they affect consumer food purchasing and consumption.

These methods will be effective for three types of applications. First, policy makers and food producers need simple and robust, but scientifically sound methods that they can routinely apply to test health claims and symbols for consumer understanding, and for obtaining summary insights on potential effects on purchasing and consumption. Second, major policy shifts, such as the introduction of new health symbol schemes or revised legislation on presentation of health claims, may call for methodologies to perform in-depth, policy-oriented studies on likely effects of such policy shifts. Third, methods are needed for scientific research in the consumer science area, usually with an emphasis on testing or identifying complex patterns of cause and effect.

Investigation of effects: The effect of health claims and symbols on understanding, purchase and consumption

research4Work Area 4 will provide the scientific evidence on how claims and symbols, in their context, are understood by consumers, and how they contribute to healthier food choices (e.g. at the point of purchase) and potentially healthier consumption patterns.

The underlying assumption is that health related claims and symbols interact in determining their effect on understanding, purchase and consumption, and that this happens in the context of other labelling information on the food product itself as well as other information made available to the consumer. Researchers in CLYMBOL will apply a diversity of behavioural and cognitive science research approaches, including experimental, in-store and econometric research approaches. This will be done on a shared set of stimulus material to ensure comparability and synergy between studies.

research2Public policy implications: Stimulating healthy food choices for the consumer and innovation within the industry

In Work Area 5, partners will turn the methodological and empirical findings gathered in the previous work packages into actionable implications for the different stakeholders in the area of health claims and symbols (policy-makers, the food industry, retailers, NGOs and consumers), getting back to the aims of informed choice, healthy choice and increased competitiveness.

Additionally, researchers will investigate and identify potential innovative and competitive ways of communicating (traditional and social media) about health claims and symbols, leading to social innovation. This is hoped to facilitate the role that on-pack information could have in informed and healthy choices, while also counteracting possible misunderstandings and misinformation of the consumer.