While smartphones and the internet are being used more commonly by Australian consumers these days, a majority of them say they do not trust online food product information sources as much as printed labels, according to the results of a recent consumer survey.

Conducted by RMIT University and GS1 Australia, the survey highlighted  64 per cent of respondents place most of their trust in printed labels while 54 per cent rely on printed brochures and fact sheets compared to 37 per cent for the general internet sources and just 16 per cent for electronic sources, including social media and smartphone applications.

The survey also reveals 80 per cent of respondents trust printed food labels more than smartphone apps, and 79 per cent trust printed food labels more than the internet.

Professor Caroline Chan, who led the research team from RMIT School of Business IT and Logistics, said the results provide the food industry with valuable insights into what consumers are looking for when it comes to printed labels and other channels, such as mobile apps.

“Although consumers are comfortable using electronic technology for other routine tasks, they do not currently trust it as a key media channel of food product information. It is vital for industry, especially brand owners, to understand why and therefore how we can achieve higher levels of trust in the future,” she said.

The study also highlighted the ‘most important’ information to consumers when they buy a food product for the first time. Nutritional information came out on top (70 per cent), followed closely by the list of ingredients (66 per cent) and trusted brand (65 per cent).

Steven Pereira, GS1 Australia’s chief information officer, said brand owners need to understand what information consumers are looking for, and how best to deliver this to consumers via channels they will use and trust.

“Printed food labels have been the primary deliverer of food product information for some time, and the survey shows no signs of this decreasing. But as consumers are looking for more product information, the challenge now is to develop credible and reliable electronic sources that can provide a wide range of detailed information about food, which consumers will trust,” he said.