Labeling of food products effects both positively and negatively on the buyers motives as it involves buyer perceptions and trust towards labeling. Ethical food labeling is what consumers look for while making purchases. Labeling of food products offers information which is useful for finding the right products according to the needs and requirements. Though it has some positive sides but various surveys and research confirms that consumers are often overwhelmed and confused when it comes to ethical food products. The more confusion is due to the vast array of different environmental labels which are being used by the companies and consumers are not aware of the labels. It is evident that consumers will prefer more environmental friendly products if they are more clearer about the labels and facts related. Labels help consumers in providing information related to their food and from where it has come- whether grown organically or not, allergen details etc. It is important that the labels should be there on the food products as they help in providing information but it is also important that there should be awareness regarding labels and how to understand the information provided on labels of various food products. Often food labels are perceived by consumers and are confused not being ethically good due to less awareness and knowledge. Food label is one of the important source of information sharing regarding the food items which is used by the customers while deciding and buying uncertain food products. (Wandel, 1997:212; Dimara &Skuras, 2005:90, Silayoi & Speece, 2004:624).The nutritional value and the ingredients of the food are known with help of labels (Wandel, 1997:213; Higginson et al., 2002:95). For those who avoid certain ingredients due to religion and ethics(Davies, 2000:2), or allergy or health reasons (Abbott, 2004:S345; Voordouw et al., 2009:94) accurate and reliable food labeling is of great importance to them. These days health conscious buyers are also highly reliant on the labeling of the food products as they are more aligned towards making healthy food choices. As health, religion and allergies are major reason for consumers to study and use information labels (Wandel, 1997:212), it is important for the companies to provide complete, clear, exact and honest food nutrition information on the labels of the food products.(Davies, 2000:3) which will help consumers in better buying decisions.
There are many buyer reasons and preferences which are helping them in identifying right product through labeling but there is an important concern still going on which is effecting the buyers perspective which is Food Ethics". The write-up helps in studying the moral acceptability of the labels on the food products from the consumers perspective and how they feel it to be more ethical. There are various ethical issues which are important to food labeling and ethics according to consumers. Food ethics helps in deciding the behavior of various entities, such as retailers, producers and manufacturers, and regulators of the food industry. Food ethics is important to consumers as food affects their body(Physically as well as mentally) and their cultural and social environment in which they live (Mepham, 2000:610). It is linked to the trust consumers has on manufacturer and retailers. It is essential these days to recognize the need of creating trust and knowledge in the minds of consumers related to the food products offered by the company for increasing sales and profits rather than focusing only on the marketing and brand awareness. According to the perspectives of the consumers, the ethical issues which are important and considerable to food labeling and ethics are reliability and honesty on the food labels, clearness or transparency of label information, food additive catalog on labels and labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods. Trust is most important factor which affects the consumers buying decisions. It is linked to perceptions which consumers possess for accuracy, knowledge and their anxiety towards public welfare. (Frewer et al., 1996:483; Uusitalo & Oksanen, 2004:214, 215). Consumers look forward to companies that being a part of their corporate social responsibility, companies will follow ethical norms and all the related laws for ethical food products. (Mohr et al., 2001:47). This trust will be enhanced if companies offer a clear source of accurate information through food labeling. Food labels are expected to disclose all the facts and details about the products they are going to consume and facilitate informed decisions. (Croft, 2004:40). Food labels are considered very important these days and every consumer is aware and conscious while purchasing food.
By working on providing these ethical and quality assured food products which are labeled and not much confusing will help in attracting consumers. It is important for companies to show more visibly about their following ethical initiatives and responsibilities in labeling by, for example, using food labels to differentiate themselves from others in ethical look upon (Uusitalo & Oksanen, 2004:220). There are certain ways in which food industries could improve their food labeling in link with ethical perspective of consumers. This can be done through
Along with all these ways, off course the brand and marketing methods play an important role in effecting buyers behavior towards a product. Complication occurs when different companies offer same product with different labels and adds confusion and distress among consumers. Food labels are considered to be important nowadays as consumers are conscious about their health and other issues they make preferred choices while reading the food labels. Mandatory and standard labels will provide consumers with the certainty of protection and will help them in choosing particular products on premium prices as well. Along with clear and precise food labeling, educating consumers will help them well in selecting particular product according to their need. Educating consumers will help in improving sales by creating more awareness about brand as well as products offered by the companies. Labeling of food products can lead to positivity among buyer as it will assist consumers in better purchasing decisions but also it is essential for consumers to be aware and well-educated about the meaning and terms mentioned in labels. It is always better to use easy and simple labels which help consumers in better comparing and planning their purchase. In today's marketplace with increasing attractiveness towards green products, expected consumers spending is getting doubled on "Green Products" reaching $500 billion in 2009 (CBS News, 2008), and they are willing to pay the same amount as well (Veisten, 2007; Vlosky et al., 1999; Wu¨stenhagen, 1998). Only thing they prefer is the ethical food labeling which help them in selecting their choice of premium products.