Location, location, location: eye-tracking evidence that consumers preferentially view prominently positioned nutrition information

J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Nov;111(11):1704-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.08.005.


Background: Nutrition Facts labels can keep consumers better informed about their diets' nutritional composition, however, consumers currently do not understand these labels well or use them often. Thus, modifying existing labels may benefit public health.

Objective: The present study tracked the visual attention of individuals making simulated food-purchasing decisions to assess Nutrition Facts label viewing. Primary research questions were how self-reported viewing of Nutrition Facts labels and their components relates to measured viewing and whether locations of labels and specific label components relate to viewing.

Design: The study involved a simulated grocery shopping exercise conducted on a computer equipped with an eye-tracking camera. A post-task survey assessed self-reported nutrition information viewing, health behaviors, and demographics.

Subjects/setting: Individuals 18 years old and older and capable of reading English words on a computer (n=203) completed the 1-hour protocol at the University of Minnesota during Spring 2010.

Statistical analyses: Primary analyses included χ(2), analysis of variance, and t tests comparing self-reported and measured viewing of label components in different presentation configurations.

Results: Self-reported viewing of Nutrition Facts label components was higher than objectively measured viewing. Label components at the top of the label were viewed more than those at the bottom, and labels positioned in the center of the screen were viewed more than those located on the sides.

Conclusions: Nutrition Facts label position within a viewing area and position of specific components on a label relate to viewing. Eye tracking is a valuable technology for evaluating consumers' attention to nutrition information, informing nutrition labeling policy (eg, front-of-pack labels), and designing labels that best support healthy dietary decisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Computer Simulation
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Consumer Health Information / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Food Labeling / standards*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Public Health
  • Reading*
  • Self Disclosure