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Do consumers buy healthier thanks to Nutri-Score?

3 min
Text Peter De Meyer 
Image Davien Dierickx  


  • Nutri-Score originated in France in 2018.

  • Label indicates how healthy a food product is.

  • It sometimes causes confusion as it compares products from the same category, not from the entire range.

  • UAntwerp research shows that 30 per cent of consumers prefer an unhealthier choice. 

  • That – strange – choice is linked to their intuition: ‘healthy products can’t be tasty’.

  • This group of consumers also attaches great importance to the price tag.


From A to E, from green to red: you’ll find Nutri-Score more and more on the packaging of food products. The system should encourage consumers to eat healthier. However, research by Elke Godden shows that three consumers in ten choose an unhealthier product because of Nutri-Score. ‘That sizeable group does not believe that healthy products can also be tasty’, Godden explains in Stroom. 

What is Nutri-Score? 

Nutri-Score is a visual representation of the nutritional value of a given product. A colour and a letter indicate which foods within a particular product group are healthier than others. The system was launched in France in 2018. It’s been present in Belgium for several years now. The European Union is currently considering whether to make the label mandatory across Europe. 


The system is under criticism from several sides. Nutri-Score only compares foods from the same product group, which means that frozen chips, for example, may be given an A and salmon a C. This confuses consumers. 

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We don’t know much about how we make choices when shopping.

Elke Godden

Eating healthier 

The aim of Nutri-Score is to convince consumers to put healthy products in their shopping kart. ‘What motivates our decisions when shopping – we don’t know much about that yet’, Elke Godden says, who’s affiliated with the Faculty of Business and Economics. ‘We conducted a study of 1,156 people. We made them choose between two products several times. Each choice was about two types of yoghurt, orange juice, crisps and granola. The comparable products always differed in four areas: price, brand, nutritional claim (e.g. ‘0% fat!’ or ‘high-fibre’) and Nutri-Score.’ 

Is Nutri-Score effective? 

Based on the food label, the scientists found that there are three types of shoppers. The first group comprises half of the consumers. They deliberately choose the healthiest product available. For them, a product that changed from a Nutri-Score C to B suddenly became more attractive. When the same product carried a Nutri-Score D, they weren’t interested. 


The second group comprised 20% of supermarket goers. They usually choose an A-brand, even if its Nutri-Score is lower. The remaining 30%, surprisingly, choose the least healthy product. ‘When we gave them two identical products, one with Nutri-Score C and the other with Nutri-Score D, they chose the second product. If the products had a C and a B, they went for the C.’ 

Intentionally unhealthy

‘Group three’s decisions seem strange, but they may be based on their intuition that healthy things can’t be tasty’, Godden explains. ‘Furthermore, this group also looked very carefully at price, much more than the other groups.’ 


‘If we want to convince this 30 per cent to buy healthy food, we will have to make that food cheaper’, Godden says. ‘Price is much more important to them than the fact that a product is healthy. If Europe wants to make Nutri-Score mandatory, the results of this study should be considered.’ 

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