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Consumers respond positively to keyhole symbol campaign

It is worthwhile running campaigns that encourage consumers to buy healthy foods. A study by researchers at Aarhus University confirms that sales rise by up to 10 per cent when campaigns for products carrying the keyhole symbol are run.

2015.04.15 | Janne Hansen

Some consumers use the keyhole symbol as a guideline when shopping for food. Photo: Colourbox

Should I, or shouldn’t I? When the consumer in the supermarket has to choose a rye bread type to put in the shopping trolley, does it then make a difference that the packaging carries the keyhole symbol? Can consumers be induced to buy keyhole-labelled products when running a targeted campaign for these products?

The answer to that is yes according to a study by researchers from Aarhus University. Sales of keyhole products rise by up to 10 per cent when running a targeted campaign.

The survey was conducted by the MAPP Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector at Aarhus University at the behest of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), who wanted an evaluation of their fourth campaign for the keyhole symbol. Knowledge about the effects of campaigns is central to quality assurance and the future development of campaigns.

Consumer reactions observed

The study was conducted in the spring and summer of 2014 and was designed to gather knowledge about the purchasing behaviour of consumers in selected stores that used the keyhole campaign material. The question was whether there would be an effect on consumer behaviour during and immediately following the campaign in the selected stores.

In the first part of the study, the customers in the stores were observed. Did they respond to the signs, posters, balloons, recipes or other campaign material? Did they look at the keyhole symbol on the product’s packaging? Did they put the product in the shopping trolley?

If customers chose to put a keyhole product into the shopping cart, they were subsequently interviewed to find out why they chose that particular item and whether they were conversant with the various nutrition-related labels on the products. The purpose of this part of the study was to analyse how the campaign influenced the behaviour at the point of choosing.

The second part of the study included an analysis of sales data from the selected stores. The researchers analysed how the campaign affected the sales of keyhole-labelled products compared with non-labelled.

Campaigns lead to higher sales

Overall, the study showed that the campaign led to an approximately 10 percent increase in the percentage of keyhole products sold during the campaign. However, the effect varied considerably between product categories and was highest for categories such as fresh fish and fresh fruit and vegetables that in principle could carry the label anyway.

There was a positive effect in the shops where the proportion of keyhole products was low to start off with. On the other hand, the retail chain that already carried a large proportion of keyhole had no increase in keyhole sales.

The DVFA conducts an annual keyhole campaign to increase the awareness and use of keyhole products. Previous analyses have shown that it is primarily highly educated women and men who respond to this message. Year 2014 was the first time that DVFA targeted its campaign at a specific group, namely men above the age of 35 with none or basic vocational training. During the campaign this target group reported more frequently that health was the reason for buying such a product. The study was therefore designed to investigate whether the campaign strategy would be successful and change the purchasing behaviour of the different target groups.

The results from the study, published in a report by DCA - Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture, may help to define future keyhole activities.


Facts about the Keyhole symbol

The Keyhole symbol is the official nutritional label of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries enabling consumers to easily identify healthy foods in supermarkets.

The keyhole symbol is a voluntary common Nordic label, which has existed since 2009.

Foods labelled with the keyhole live up to one or more criteria for the contents of fat, sugar, salt and dietary fibre.

The keyhole symbol has its own website (noeglehullet.dk). Here you can find more information about the keyhole symbol.



The report (in Danish) "Nøglehulskampagne 4 – vurdering af effekten af forskellige målgrupper i udvalgte butikker i Jylland", DCA report no. 51, December 2014 can be downloaded here.

For further information please contact: Research associate Trine Mørk, MAPP – Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector, Department of Business Administration, e-mail: tmork@badm.au.dk, telephone: +45 8716 6039

DCA, Food