PhD candidate (Food Science) at the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij


 Study leaders: Professor Elizabeth (Lizette) Joubert, Professor Gunnar Sigge & Professor Timothy Guetterman


"The idea is to deliberate multiple stakeholder views when considering food labels."

Getting the labels right

Food labels, and particularly the nutritional information, is a potentially valuable tool to assist consumers in making healthy food choices. Yet, research shows varying results concerning the actual usefulness of food labels by consumers. In some countries, scientifically validated health claims are employed to guide consumers regards healthier choices, whilst front of pack nutritional labelling, in the format of either summary labels or warnings, is gaining traction in other parts of the world. South Africa is yet to implement health claims or front of pack labels, and it is unclear which of the many formats employed across the globe would be most beneficial for consumers in this diverse cultural context – if any. Furthermore, it is also unclear what challenges or opportunities could be associated with such labelling changes, and which system may maximise value for the largest number of stakeholders.

Why this matters

Challenges in the use and interpretation of food labels in South Africa predominantly relate to readability and comprehensibility. This is further evidenced based on the increasing Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) burden which would indicate that the current food labels are not having a meaningful impact on consumer understanding of the link between food choices and health. The purpose of this study is to gain greater understanding of the South African landscape through a combination of in-depth interviews and label testing. Ultimately, greater clarity is sought on label formats that deserve consideration in South Africa, due to their ability to positively influence consumer choice and ultimately make a contribution toward better health outcomes. The insights from this exploratory mixed methods research study will benefit other researchers and policymakers involved with food labelling by providing a greater understanding of what our "next steps" should be. In the longer term, the South African consumer is expected to benefit if context-relevant labelling is implemented.

MELVI_TODD-small.jpgAbout the student

Todd has more than 12 years' experience in research and development. She has worked for local and multinational companies. Her educational background lies in science as well as business. After obtaining both her BSc and MSc degrees in food science (both cum laude) at Stellenbosch University (SU), Todd decided to shift lanes and incorporate an understanding of business and management into her career. In 2009, she studied project management at SU's Business School (USB), followed by the New Managers Development Programme at the same institution. She also completed her packaging diploma at the Institute of Packaging of South Africa and an MBA at USB (cum laude). In her PhD, she focuses on multi-stakeholder perspectives on food labels and the future of healthy eating.

Melvi Todd, a PhD candidate at the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, is working to gain insights into how food labels could be improved to help consumers make more informed choices.