Objective understanding of Nutri-Score Front-Of-Package nutrition label according to individual characteristics of subjects: Comparisons with other format labels

PLoS One. 2018 Aug 23;13(8):e0202095. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202095. eCollection 2018.


Background: To improve nutritional status and prevent chronic nutrition-related diseases, international organizations have recommended the use of multiple strategies, including front-of-package nutrition labelling (FOPL). In France, the Nutri-Score has been selected by health authorities in March 2017. However, to be effective in purchasing situations, the label needs to be well understood, which may be influenced by label format and sociodemographic characteristics. This study aimed at investigating the objective understanding of the Nutri-Score compared to other label formats, and more particularly among specific at-risk populations.

Methods: The objective understanding of four FOPLs-namely Nutri-Score, Multiple Traffic Lights (MTL), the simplified nutrition labelling system (SENS), and modified Reference Intakes (mRIs)-was investigated in a sample from the NutriNet-Santé French cohort (n = 3,751). Logistic regression mixed models were computed to assess the association of the four FOPLs, compared to a "no label" situation, on the consumers' ability to rank products according to their overall nutritional quality. Objective understanding was also investigated according to sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics.

Results: Compared to a "no label" situation, all FOPLs were significantly associated to an increase in consumers' ability to classify the products correctly, with wide disparities in results according to formats. The best performance was observed for the Nutri-Score (OR = 20.33(17.68-23.37)), followed by SENS (OR = 9.57(8.50-10.77)), MTL (OR = 3.55(3.20-3.93)) and mRIs (OR = 1.53(1.39-1.69)). This ranking was similar among all sub-populations and the ORs associated to the Nutri-Score were over 10, whichever the sub-group considered. Women, younger people, non-smokers, individuals with higher educational level and those with children had a higher capacity to identify healthier products (all P≤0.05).

Conclusion: Nutri-Score, with a summarized graded and color-coded format, using semantic colours, is associated to a higher objective understanding than monochrome and nutrient-specific labels. Furthermore, though objective understanding may differ according to individual characteristics of subjects, the magnitude of effect of the Nutri-Score largely outweighed this effect, even in the at-risk populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comprehension*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Labeling*
  • Food Quality
  • France
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Odds Ratio
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The NutriNet-Santé study was supported by the following public institutions: Ministère de la Santé, Santé Publique France, Région Ile-de-France (CORDDIM), Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) and Université Paris 13. The funders had no role in the design, implementation, analysis, or interpretation of the data.