Understanding "Facts Up Front"
In 2011, the Facts Up Front voluntary nutrition labeling initiative was launched by The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in response to a March 2010 request from the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to the food and beverage industry to help consumers construct a healthful diet for themselves and their families. Facts Up Front brings important information from the Nutrition Facts Panel on the back of food and beverage products and displays them in a simple and easy-to-use format on the front of food and beverage packages. However, consumer education is critical to the success of implementing any type of new labeling approach and must be ongoing to help consumers channel knowledge into action. On April 16, 2013, the GMA launched an interactive website which provides consumers with the knowledge and tools they can use to build a healthful diet. The interactive website features facts and interactive tools to educate and empower consumers, including:
A Nutrition Calculator – Helps people determine the specific calorie and nutrient needs for themselves and their family members;
An Interactive Label – Explains all the nutrients featured in Facts Up Front, how they impact your health and common nutrient sources;
A Nutrition Quiz – Allows nutrition novices and savvy shoppers alike to identify opportunities to learn more about building a healthful diet;
Shopping and Meal Planning Tips – Provides advice from registered dietitians to help Americans overcome common obstacles to creating healthful meals; and
Recipes – Offers easy, delicious dishes made with products bearing the Facts Up Front label. In addition to these consumer resources, there is also a section of the website for health professionals that provide downloadable tools and resources for educating consumers, patients and clients. For example, there is a guide for registered dietitians to help them plan a supermarket tour plus research underpinning the Facts Up Front program. A Spanish-language version of the site was also launched (accessed through www.factsupfront.org or directly at http://es.factsupfront.org), along with mobile versions of the sites to reach on-the-go consumers.
What is Facts Up Front?
Facts Up Front labels, which are displayed on the front of products, highlight nutrition information – calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar per serving – in a clear, easy-to-understand format. The labels also provide consumers with valuable information about “nutrients to encourage,” that is, nutrients that Americans need to get more of as part of an overall healthful diet. Facts Up Front is grounded in nutrition science and research on consumer messaging, including the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It has been designed to be flexible and can accommodate changes to the federal Dietary Guidelines.
The consumer research behind the Icons
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation was commissioned by GMA to conduct a web-based survey in Fall 2010 to quantitatively assess U.S. consumers’ comprehension and interpretation of a FOP nutrition labeling system. Consumers were asked to view FOP labels with varying amounts of information. Participants included 7,363 primary grocery shoppers, nationally representative and consistent with the U.S. Census with respect to household income, age, and education, and demographics were uniformly replicated among the four test groups. The FOP system tested in this study (similar to the Facts Up Front) generally enabled shoppers to demonstrate comprehension, express ease of understanding, and demonstrate interpretation of nutrition information on the products tested. In general, increasing the amount of nutrition information on the FOP served to strengthen consumers’ comprehension and comfort level with such material.
Connecting FOP to Consumer Behavior
The International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health Surveys continue to find that consumers rate the food label as one of their top sources of nutrition information. The GMA is planning a consumer education campaign to drive further awareness of the program and understanding of the label. It will also be necessary to conduct continued consumer education and research to determine if any labeling approach is having the intended effects, not only on consumer purchases but also on consumption patterns to build healthful diets.
Source: Facts Up Front website, which is a joint initiative of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute.