Spin or fair speak – when food products start talking

New knowledge and tools for public control, self-regulation, and innovation in the field of food naming and labelling with a special focus on nutrition and health claims


Scientific Summary

The project targets consumers’ decoding of food names, claims and other immediate verbal and nonverbal design elements on the product packaging during in-store decision making, and the problem of cues and combinations of such which may potentially mislead consumers, in particular with regard to nutrition and health related information. It aims at developing a new, shared frame of reference for authorities, companies, and consumer organisations to assess whether and how the immediate presentation of a given food product is likely to mislead consumers, while at the same time enhancing the knowledge base of the Danish food industry for creatively integrating the full communicative potential of foods in the development of new, tasty, and healthy products. The initial empirical input is the total corpus of cases on misleading food labelling processed by the Danish authorities since 1997. On this bases, a typology of conflict scenarios will be established and matched against an integrated theoretical model of consumers’ decoding of a food product’s full semiotic potential in the buying situation. The model is formulated by integrating relevant theory and empirical finding from linguistic, perceptual, cognitive, and food sociological research. Subsequently, selected hypotheses and predictions on actual consumer interpretations and outcomes of design adjustments will be tested empirically by combining for the present purpose a number of empirical tools, including eyetracking, on- and offline interpretation of novel/creative word combinations, questionnaire-based mapping of inference drawing and changes in truth assignments, sensory tests, and qualitative post-shopping and focus group interviews. The expected results will contribute to strengthening the competitive power of the Danish food sector with regard to both innovative product development and authority control.


Copenhagen Business School * Dalgas Have 15 * 2000 Frederiksberg * E-mail: mn.ibc@cbs.dk * Telefon: +45 21669415 * FairSpeak © 2015