1.1. Consumer Perception of E-numbers
1.2. Role of the Media in E-number Communication
1.3. Role of the Food Industry
2.1. Design and Theoretical Framework
2.2. Study Group and Procedure
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. What Are the Causes of Consumer Distrust of E-numbers?
3.1.1. The Perceived Reliability of the Source of E-number Information
“There is also a task for the retailers, who all have their own magazines. They can explain (……) what they do with E-numbers in their products. With this they can distinguish themselves with their private label offerings”.(expert from research institute)
“For many years, the industry has not been seen as a reliable information source on nutrition & health, but more recently consumers also have less confidence in neutral parties when they have contacts with food companies”.(expert from food industry organisation)
“A consumer association and a nutrition information organisation have good websites for information and Wikipedia is surprisingly neutral on the subject of E-numbers. So there are sufficient sites available with good and objective information”.(expert from university)
3.1.2. Domination of negative information on E-numbers
(1) “With Google you should be very careful, you should look at the source. But the question is whether consumers can critically judge the results of a Google search”.(expert from research institute)
(2) “You can Google and find a lot about E-numbers. The negative news on E-numbers strongly dominates, therefore it is logical that people have the impression that there is something not right. It is important to note that also many professionals go along with the negative information on E-numbers”.(expert from university)
3.1.3. Trend Towards Natural E-numbers and Clean Label Food Products
“Consumers have the idea that ‘natural’ is the same as ‘safe’, this is wrong: there are many toxic substances in nature and many E-numbers are natural. Big food companies communicate ‘without this E-number’ and ‘without that E-number’, but they actually communicate that what they have taken out is not good for you”.(expert from university)
3.2. What Are the Best Ways to Reduce Distrust of E-numbers?
3.2.1. Methods of Communication
(1) “It is important to reach as many influential people as possible such as journalists, large food companies and consumer organisations. Those are the people that bring the information on E-numbers to the general public”.(expert from university)
(2) “About the communication between technologists and marketers: I would like to create a dialogue. Not on what is good or what is bad, but on how to discuss the E-numbers. This discussion could be improved if technologists are not only concerned about the health and safety of E-numbers, but also, by asking questions, find out what the consumers find important. (…) Recommendation is to take the emotions of consumers serious and talk about them”.(expert from university)
“Negative information should not be used. Only discuss it when requested, but not in an active way. It is also very important to try not to refute everything, but to tell an own story. This can be seen in debates in politics. Trying to refute something often reinforces it. So it is better to tell the world an original but honest story".(expert from university)
3.2.2. Communicated Messages
“People prefer sugary drinks because they are afraid of aspartame. On this point our organisation wants to remove the unjustified fear that causes consumers to eat unhealthy. The intention is not to focus on the E-numbers, but to focus on healthy food. This is what we would like to achieve”.(expert from nutrition information organisation)
“If there are individual questions we answer them. But if there are more questions on E-numbers, we offer an explanation on the website, including Twitter. This works well, looking at the responses”.(expert form a NGO)
3.3. Which Actions Have to be Taken By Whom?
(1) “Trust is very much dependent upon the fact that people are on speaking terms. Companies should do this if consumers have problems with E–numbers. In this case NGOs are good parties. Personally I think the most important party is the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN). The SFYN is a movement with young professionals that is committed to a fairer and healthier food system. (……) Within companies, marketers and technologists should also have more discussions, for example on the topic whether health is most important or not”.(expert form university)
(2) “To achieve this the manufacturers and retail are not suitable, the government or an organisation as Animal rights or a consumer association or other independent consumer organisations can communicate this”.(expert from research institute)
3.3.1. Information on Food Labels
3.3.2. The Food Industry
3.4. The Model ‘Factors That Influence the Risk Perception of the Consumer’
3.5. Strengths and Limitations of This Study
Future Research Directions
Conflicts of Interest
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|Research Questions||Factors (A–F, Figure 1)||Topic List Interviews about E-numbers|
|1. What are the causes of consumer distrust of E-numbers?||E. Social/cultural characteristics||Communication of different organisations|
Intentions in communication (aim, target groups, ways of communication to different target groups).
|B. Characteristics of the risk||Availability and reliability of information for consumers.|
Quantity of information available for consumers, positive/negative information, reliability of information. How do consumers deal with it? Where does the distrust of E- numbers come from?
|A. Objective risk (calculated):|
change and effect
|The use of E-numbers/clean label in food|
Change: Probability that food with E-numbers is not safe and will harm human health.
Effect: objective effects, scientific proven knowledge
|2. What are the best ways to reduce the distrust about E-numbers?||C. Characteristics of observation: framing||Ways to reduce distrust|
How to reduce negative information on E-numbers?
|D. Personal characteristics||Best ways to improve knowledge, confidence and attitude of consumers|
Personal characteristics are dependent of knowledge, confidence, attitude, mood and awareness of consumers. What has already been done to improve this and how can this be done in the future?
|F. Appraisal of the threat:|
|Actions/Communication to reduce the distrust|
Which organisations can undertake actions/communication to reduce the distrust of E- numbers?
|Communication Target Groups|
|Study Group||Scientists||Food Professionals||Food Industry||Government||Consumers|
|University 1 (Researcher)||X||X||X|
|University 2 (Philosopher)||X||X|
|Research institute 1||X||X||X||X||X|
|Research institute 2||X|
|Food industry organisation 1||X||X||X|
|Food industry organisation 2||X||X||X||X|
|Media (Food magazine /blogs) 1||X|
|Media (Food magazine /blogs) 2||X||X|
|Nutrition information organisation||X||X|
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