Energy intake (calories) was identified as the nutritional information concept that is the most widely understood across different European markets.
These findings could make it easier to eventually establish an EU-wide system of nutritional information.
"There is currently a lot of consumer research being conducted on complex nutritional labelling concepts," said EUFIC director general Dr Josephine Wills.
"EUFIC has gone back to basics, testing the most widely understood concept of energy intake (calories consumed). With obesity being a significant public health challenge in Europe, we wanted to determine if communicating energy-based concepts on the front and back of products would increase consumer engagement and understanding of nutrition information."
In this latest research, EUFIC tested eight different concepts which varied in complexity of the energy-based information provided, ranging from front of pack 'calories per 100g'to a 'full option' that included energy information in relation to daily energy needs for men & women, calories per portion and the amount of exercise needed to burn off the calories contained within the product.
The energy-based concepts were tested amongst young adults, families and the elderly in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
EUFIC said that the results were remarkably consistent across all markets, identifying calories per portion as the preferred front of pack labelling choice. The research concluded that consumers see front-of-pack nutrition information as truly innovative.
There have been strong moves to push forward the notion of a common nutrition labelling scheme in recent months. In July, the CIAA launched an initiative recommending front-of-pack and back-of-pack nutrition labelling, based on a uniform list of nutrients, nutrition information per serving and the introduction of Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs).
The GDA recommendations used in the CIAA nutrition labelling scheme are based on the nutritional needs of an average adult, as derived from international, EU and government guidelines. GDAs, says the CIAA, represent a science-based and non-discriminatory system for providing easy-to-use guidance to consumers.
Similarly, Danisco business development manager Lise Balstrup told FoodNavigator last week that new innovative solutions were needed to make it easier for consumers to understand the nutritional value of food. She recommended harnessing technology that could give accurate information of the amount of calories that consumers regularly purchase.
"There is information on food products about how many calories there are per 100g, but it is how much you eat that counts," said Balstrup.
"What about, after doing your shopping, your calorie count appeared on your receipt? You would then see all the calories you've purchased, and what the total is."
EUFIC is currently undertaking a scientific, systematic review of all the major European consumer research commissioned on food labelling initiatives over the past 4 years. The results of this definitive study will be presented at the First World Congress for Public Health Nutrition taking place in Barcelona, 28 to 30 September 2006.