Though more restaurants are posting calorie counts on menus, less than half of Americans are looking at them, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Forty-three per cent of US adults said they pay “a great deal” or “fair amount” to nutrition information on menus, according to Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits survey, which was conducted in July and included a random sample of 2,027 adults nationwide.
But 68% said they pay at least a fair amount of attention to nutrition labels on food packages.
Women are more likely than men to chew over the nutrition facts on both restaurant menus and food packages. Young adults ages 18 to 29 are the least likely to note nutrition information, and lower-income individuals are less likely than higher earners to consider calorie counts.
The findings may shed light on several industry efforts to help consumers make informed decisions about food purchases.
By next year, menu labeling will be federally required for restaurant chains with 20 or more locations, but recent studies suggest consumers prefer to indulge when dining out rather than respond to calorie cues on menu boards. Earlier this year, the Chicago-based research firm The NPD Group found that only a quarter of consumers order healthy meals at restaurants.
Similarly, as more companies take part in the Facts Up Front labeling initiative launched by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute in 2011, some have questioned the use of prominently displayed nutrition data on packages. The Hershey Co. recently began rolling out front-of-pack labeling on its products, but JP Bilbrey, president and chief executive officer, suggested there may be more effective ways to inform consumers on a food’s facts.
“Is the intent of these things really driven at creating clarity and decision-making for consumers?” Bilbrey says. “…it’s my personal opinion that there are probably more elegant solutions of how we create, call it a portal or place for consumers to go to better understand food with facts that are supported by generally accepted science, so that they get the right information and can make the best decisions.”