Consumer insight: date labels and storage guidance

Start date:
February 2010
January 2011

A project for WRAP designed to enhance the evidence base around consumer understanding, interpretation and use of date labels and storage guidance.


Our research was based around the following research questions:

  • How are date labels – such as ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labels – and storage guidance – such as ‘once opened, use within three days’ - understood, interpreted and used by consumers?
  • What are the implications of this for household food waste?
  • What impact could changes to labelling have on food waste?
  • How could food date and storage information be made more valuable to consumers, with the aim of reducing food waste?
  • What new ways of communicating with consumers could be developed to achieve this aim?


  • Evidence review - To identify gaps in the existing evidence; to develop precise research questions for the subsequent phases of the project.
  • Baseline questionnaire - To gather background information relating to the behaviours and attitudes of kitchen diary participants towards food and food waste generally, and specifically around the use of date labels and storage guidance. 174 questionnaires were returned.
  • Kitchen diaries - To gather valid data on use of date labels and storage guidance, and their role in disposal decisions, at the point of decision-making.
  • Depth and telephone interviews - To develop a rich, qualitative picture of understanding, interpretation and use of date labels and storage guidance. 168 were completed and suitable for analysis.
  • Accompanied shops - To explore how date labels and storage guidance are used by consumers at the point of purchase, packing in the shop and unpacking at home.
  • Online survey - To test emerging patterns with a representative sample of the public; to gain insight into variation by product type and consumer group (e.g. age group, socio-economic group, household type); to test the impacts of label variations. The online survey was done with a representative sample of 2,000 members of the UK public, conducted in late August 2010.

Follow-on project

Following on from the first part of the project as described above was a detailed exploration of possible ways of 'clustering' consumers with respect to their date and/or storage guidance attitudes and behaviours. Essentially this work constituted a step towards a workable segmentation model. The online survey dataset was used for this phase of the project, allowing conclusions based on socio-demographic characteristics to be drawn.

The follow-on project represented a move towards a practically applicable segmentation model which indicates the direction of further behaviour change interventions in the reduction of avoidable household food waste.


Published in September 2011. Please use the links in the centre column to view the reports.

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