The research, published in Food Research International, investigated the shopping habits of 50 consumers with 10 breakfast cereals. Researchers used mobile eye-tracking technology alongside projective mapping – where participants visually assessed cereals and grouped them according to similarities.
The researchers said incorporation of mobile eye-tracking allowed invaluable real-time insight into immediate product assessment.
“The mobile eye tracker recorded what consumers were looking at during all stages of the projective mapping task, allowing further understanding of what underlies this profiling task,” they said.
This understanding on how consumers visually processed packages and what information they relied on most for product assessment could help manufacturers develop successful product communication strategies, the researchers said.
Product name and branding
During the experiment, 66% of participants quickly skimmed over all 10 products before focusing in on individual packs.
Once they were focused on individual cereals, findings showed product name and branding were the most important package attributes for a majority of participants.
Almost all looked at the product name and between 72-98% looked at the brand. Front-of-pack image also scored high in importance, with 80-90% of participants focusing on this.
Other package messaging, including nutritional information and health claims were less important and product benefits and usage instructions were “almost disregarded”, the researchers said.
“During the test, irrespective of their saliency, most consumers looked at the same key information, mainly on the front-of-pack.”
While half of the participants picked up and turned the packs to look at information on the side or back, “only a few consumers actually read the information”, the researchers said. When this messaging was read, nutrition information and the ingredients lists were prioritized.
Standout design important
While most participants focused on front-of-pack messaging, some details like net weight (also front-of-pack) received very little attention.
While the researchers said this feature could have been more important to consumers if price was shown, they added that it demonstrated the importance of standout design.
“The saliency of information should play a key role in the design of food packages, particularly when dealing with characteristics that differentiate a product from their competitors.”
Standout features caught a consumers’ initial attention, they said. For example, while participants didn’t use branding or product names to assess and group cereals in the mapping task, these features were very strong in capturing initial consumer attention.
Further research on how this attentional capture and attribute importance interplayed would be a promising area to look into, the researchers said.
Source: Food Research International
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2014.08.015. October 2014, vol 64, pages 701-710
“Attentional capture and importance of package attributes for consumers’ perceived similarities and differences among products: A case study with breakfast cereal packages”
Authors: P. Varela, L. Antunez, RS. Cadena, A. Gimenez and G. Ares