Food pack sizes can fool consumers about portion sizes, says research

7 October 2015 (Last Updated October 7th, 2015 18:30)

The size of food packs can affect a consumer's perception about portion sizes, with larger packs convincing them about increased quantities, reveals a study conducted by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) and the University of Surrey in the UK.

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The size of food packs can affect a consumer's perception about portion sizes, with larger packs convincing them about increased quantities, reveals a study conducted by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) and the University of Surrey in the UK.

Published in the journal Appetite, the research indicates that larger pack sizes of crisps, chocolate, lasagne and cola type drinks, when presented to people, led all of them to believe in increased portion size estimates.

A similar reaction was also observed with other food items, including chicken nuggets, sweets and biscuits when participants were questioned about the number of items in a portion.

The research team carried out the study across six European countries, including France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK with 13,177 participants in total.

"Our results indicate a small but significant 'pack size effect' across all countries and for different types of food and drinks."

EUFIC consumer insights head Dr Sophie Hieke said: "Our results indicate a small but significant 'pack size effect' across all countries and for different types of food and drinks.

"If people were to actually consume the portions they estimate in this study, there would be a substantial increase in energy intake in each of these eating occasions."

Gender was found to be a decisive factor in the study, since men usually associated a large pack size with large portion size when compared to women.

The countries were also noted to have differences concerning portion size increases with Sweden, Poland and Germany indicating this, compared with participants from Spain, France and the UK, even after receiving the same pack sizes.

The authors intend to conduct further research to evaluate whether increased portion sizes can lead to an expected increase in energy intakes over time.


Image: Food pack sizes can fool consumers to form the wrong notions about quantities. Photo: courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.