Public Health Nutrition

Marketing and communication

Sodium and nutrition labelling: a qualitative study exploring New Zealand consumers’ food purchasing behaviours

Rachael McLeana1 c1 and Janet Hoeka2

a1 Edgar National Centre for Diabetes & Obesity Research, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand

a2 Department of Marketing, University of Otago. Dunedin, New Zealand


Objective Dietary sodium reduction is an important public health intervention that would reduce blood pressure and chronic disease. An understanding of how New Zealand consumers’ food purchasing behaviour is influenced by perceptions of dietary sodium will inform future sodium-reduction strategies.

Design The present qualitative study used in-depth interviews of adult consumers to explore consumer knowledge, understanding of food labels and food purchasing behaviour with respect to dietary sodium.

Setting New Zealand.

Subjects A convenience sample of sixteen adult grocery shoppers.

Results A thematic analysis of the transcripts showed New Zealand consumers lacked the background knowledge necessary to understand and regulate their own salt intake and were unable to interpret existing food labels with respect to dietary salt.

Conclusions The findings add further weight to calls for food labels that do not require background knowledge or numerical skills and highlight the need for population-based public health interventions. Education of New Zealand consumers on the health benefits of sodium reduction and how this may be achieved would complement this approach.

(Received October 29 2012)

(Revised February 04 2013)

(Accepted February 12 2013)

(Online publication May 07 2013)


  • Food labelling;
  • Sodium;
  • Consumer behaviour;
  • Qualitative;
  • New Zealand


c1 Corresponding author: Email