The impact of having an EFSA approved health claim on your product may not be as high as you may think, according to consumer understanding expert Professor Stefanie Bröring and her team of researchers.
"Almost none of the German consumers understand the role of EFSA," said Bröring - who told NutraIngredients that because of this any health claims approved by EFSA that appear on products are not being recognised for their true value by consumers.
"I think there is a great dilemma for industry in spending a lot of money on getting a health claim from EFSA and then being in the situation where nobody on the consumer's side knows what EFSA is or understands it," she said.
"EFSA, health claims, and the entire approval process, are not known to general consumers."
Yet, Bröring and her group at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück asked a sample of consumers what they want from a health claim, the majority explained that they wanted an independent authority that was able to assess and approve it.
"That's EFSA," said the consumer understanding expert. "A lot of people were quite shocked when we explained that to them."
"I think that's a very important message. We need to make EFSA more accessible to consumers," she said.
The question, Bröring argued is not whether EFSA needs to be more widely recognised by the public for its role in approving health claims - but how the scientific council can be better understood by consumers.
"Is EFSA going to do that? Or maybe the competent authorities? Perhaps even the industry who has to do that?"
Working paper for industry
Bröring told NutraIngredients that her research team had now produced detailed consumer insight information for specific topic areas in the functional food arena.
Whilst some academic papers have been published (and will continue to be published) by the group on these topics the Professor said that her group are also working on a more in depth 'working paper' that they make available to industry members.
Bröring asked that companies who may be interested contact her.
As part of the Vitafoods conference sessions Sabine Bornkessel - who forms part of Bröring's research team - will offer industry players key insights in to how well consumers understand ingredients for gut health.
Speaking at 16.00 on May 14th, Bornkessel will present findings from the group's research into gut health ingredients, asking: what consumers really know, how this drives purchasing decisions, and how to communicate gut health benefits in the absence of a health claim.
For more information about the Vitafoods show and conference sessions, or to find out more about Bornkessel's presentation, please visit the Vitafoods website.