Food labels are failing British shoppers, Ubamarket research finds


Ubamarket has commissioned nationally representative research to find out the nation’s attitudes towards food labels and, in response, will be launching a new feature of its supermarket shopping app, its allergen alerts feature. 44% of Brits suffer from at least one allergy, a trend that is on the rise in recent years with many intolerances and allergies going undiagnosed.

  • 44% of respondents (22,958,441) said that food labels are difficult and at times impossible to read
  • 25% of respondents (7,826,150) are vegetarians, vegans and/or Coeliacs have eaten meat, dairy or wheat because of poor labeling
  • 30% (12,948,249) say food labels make it harder to maintain a healthy diet
  • 19% (6,370,122) have had an attempt at a vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diet scuppered by confusing food labels
  • 28% of the nation (12,090,232) say that the complicated food labels are the primary reason they find dieting difficult
  • 52% of respondents (26,078,01) agreed that the complicated nature of UK food labels make it difficult for people with dietary requirements to make informed decisions about their food
  • 39% of the nation (17,914,344) don’t feel that they know enough about the ingredients in the food they eat
  • 44% of respondents (22,984,441) wish there was a solution that made figuring out food ingredients easier

For those of us with allergies, dietary requirements, health concerns or simply those that don’t enjoy certain ingredients, food labels are essential. However, Ubamarket’s research has found that almost 23m shoppers find the labels impossible to read. Clearly, what should be an informational tool is not serving its purpose. With the UK retail arena under acute scrutiny, supermarkets need to become aware that consumers shop with more thought and consideration of nutritional and ingredient contents, choosing specific diets that they are committed to sticking to. Once supermarkets are ready to address this, the next step will be implementing structures to make those consumer profiles feel that their unique nutritional habits are catered for.

In light of this research, Ubamarket will be launching its new Allergen Alerts feature, bringing the small print to life and making sure that UK consumers are informed and knowledgeable about the food in their trollies. UK shoppers will be able to scan items using the Ubamarket app and receive an alert for any allergens, including whether the item is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Most common dietary mishaps:

  • 81% (42.4 million) of the nation are not aware that soy sauce contains gluten
  • 79% (41.3 million) of the nation do not know that ice-cream contains gluten
  • 32% (16.7 million) are not aware that pesto is not non-vegetarian, even though most pesto is made using grana padano cheese
  • 18% (9.5 million) erroneously believe that parmesan is vegetarian, when in fact it is made using rennet, a by-product of the calf meat industry
  • 16% (8.4 million) believe that crisps are vegan when most crisps contain dairy products

One in 100 UK residents suffers from Coeliac disease, meaning they are unable to properly digest gluten and therefore cannot consume many of the food we take for granted. As well as those that suffer from Coeliac disease, a further 8.5m Brits have opted to go gluten-free for health reasons. The free-from market grew by 36% in 2017, rising to £230m and this is expected to increase. Supermarkets have had to service a growing consumer base by dedicating sections of the supermarket to free-from food. However, Ubamarket’s research has found that a quarter of the nation that have been or are vegans, vegetarians and/or gluten-free have accidentally eaten the wrong food because of poor labelling.