ARE CANADIANS WILLING TO USE THE PRIVATE PROVISION OF NUTRITION INFORMATION WHILE GROCERY SHOPPING?
Through the delivery of an online survey to a general population sample of Canadians (n=242) who are primary grocery shoppers and are from Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, this thesis elicits consumer responses about their use of four sources of nutrition information, namely: the longstanding and mandated Canadian Nutrition Facts table (NFT); the Canadian version of the Guiding Stars nutritional navigation program; in-store nutrition experts hired by private retailers; and, the UK’s widely recognized traffic light label that is not currently seen in the Canadian food retail market. Canadians are demanding improved nutrition information while purchasing groceries but may realize time and search costs in accessing this information, therefore, this thesis investigates whether consumers benefit from the private provision of nutrition information and their willingness to use these additional sources of nutrition information. The sources of nutrition information investigated are delivered at the point of decision making, can act as a heuristic and/or source of education, and intend on helping consumers make healthy and informed shopping choices with low time costs. The examples of the private provision of nutrition information examined in this thesis may compete with the mandated NFT. The NFT is recommended by the Government of Canada (GOC) as a primary mode of nutrition guidance. The GOC, private retailers, and other parties recognize that the NFT has limitations in the ability to help shoppers with their nutrition needs, giving potential incentives for individuals to use other sources of nutrition information. The objectives of this thesis include examining how willing individuals are to use the private provision of nutrition information in relation to the NFT, understanding factors impacting the decision to use the Guiding Stars and traffic light label, understanding the extent to which the privately provided food labels may substitute for the mandated NFT, and, stimulating discussion around the use of privately hired in-store nutrition experts with implications for the GOC, private retailers, and food producers. Analysis of survey results through descriptive statistics and ordered probit econometrics models measuring willingness to use the Guiding Stars and traffic light label reveal a number of interesting results. The average respondent more positively viewed the traffic light label and NFT in relation to the Guiding Stars and nutrition experts. The traffic light label in combination with the NFT is the most preferred combination of nutrition information examined, whereas the likelihood of adopting the Guiding Stars, either on its own or in combination with the NFT, is lower. Results show that more respondents knew about the traffic light label than the Guiding Stars prior to the survey, and even though more than half (n=148) of respondents shop where the Guiding Stars is installed only about 12% of respondents had noticed the Guiding Stars. Interestingly, respondents who reported having seen the Guiding Stars before the survey were less likely to be willing to use it. This thesis outlines a set of most and least influential factors impacting the willingness to use the traffic light label and the Guiding Stars, with hopes of improving the understanding of how to provide Canadians with useful nutrition information and to explore the role of privately provided nutrition signals in this regard. Ultimately, the results of this thesis suggest that the traffic light label is a candidate for providing Canadians with an additional source of nutrition information in the future. Given that individuals are heterogeneous in their nutrition needs and wants, the Guiding Stars and in-store nutrition experts may also add benefit for Canadians trying to make informed shopping decisions. Because the nature of information provision between food labels and in-person discussion with a nutrition expert are inherently different, focus of the results are on the relationship between the food labels.
Nutrition information, Food labels, Guiding Stars, Traffic light label, Nutrition Facts table, Willingness to use
Master of Science (M.Sc.)
Agricultural and Resource Economics