Effects of environmental impact and nutrition labelling on food purchasing: An experimental online supermarket study

21 September 2022


Christina Potter, Rachel Pechey, Brian Cook, Paul Bateman, Cristina Stewart, Kerstin Frie, Michael Clark, Carmen Piernas, Mike Rayner & Susan A. Jebb

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Nutrition labels and ecolabels can support consumers to make healthier and more sustainable choices, and the former is now widespread. But there is no information on the impact of ecolabels in the presence of nutrition labels. The aims of this study were primarily to examine whether (1) ecolabels are effective at promoting sustainable purchasing behaviour if presented alongside nutrition labels; (2) and secondarily, whether nutrition labels are effective at promoting healthier purchasing if presented alongside ecolabels. Participants (N = 2730) visited an experimental online supermarket platform, and were randomised to see products with (1) environmental impact labels only; (2) nutrition (NutriScore) labels only; (3) both environmental and nutrition labels; (4) no labels. Linear regressions compared the mean environmental impact scores (EIS; primary outcome) and health scores of products in participants’ shopping baskets across each condition. Compared to control (no labels) there were significant reductions in the EIS when environmental impact labels were presented: Alone (−1.3, 95%CI: −2.3 to −0.4) or With nutrition labels (−2.0, 95%CI: −2.9 to −1.0), with no evidence of differences in effectiveness between these two conditions. There was no evidence of an impact of nutrition labels on either the EIS or the healthiness of purchases, both when nutrition labels were shown alone and when ecolabels were also present. Environmental impact labels may be effective at encouraging more sustainable purchases alone or when used alongside nutrition labels. This adds to the evidence base on the feasibility and effectiveness of environmental impact labelling as an important measure to change dietary behaviour to improve planetary health.