LONDON: Food and snack brands are facing increasing pressures in the UK, with new reports highlighting consumer confusion over labelling and a trend towards avoiding TV's junk food ad ban with more digital marketing.

Research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, which surveyed 2,000 UK consumers with primary responsibility for grocery shopping, found that just over half (51%) did not understand food labelling and 70% felt food and drink brands could do more to explain what is in their products.

A parallel survey of senior marketers within 100 large manufacturers and retailers revealed that around half of them (55%) also thought they could do more to simplify product information for consumers. And three quarters said it was a business objective to encourage behaviour change among consumers.

While 81% of client-side respondents said they went beyond the minimum required to provide clear and accurate information, 83% also claimed to have seen other brands claiming to be healthier than they actually were.

"Clearly the industry is taking it seriously but there is obviously quite a way to go when industry respondents say they are seeing some questionable behaviour by other brands when they visit the supermarket themselves," Thomas Brown, associate director of research and insights at the CIM, told Marketing Week.

On-pack information remained the most widely used method of informing consumers about products, employed by 84% of organisations, according to the study.

Digital channels were led by dedicated websites (63%), with social media (30%) some way behind. Online events, such as a Facebook Q&A, had been used by 18%.

A separate report commissioned from Liverpool University by the British Heart Foundation charity and the Children's Food Campaign group said that, following a ban on junk food advertising during children's TV programming, brands were now targeting later slots during family TV shows.

The study of 784 advertisements found that 22% of prime-time ads were for food and, of those, 13% were for fast food chains and 12% for confectionery brands.

Further, the increased use of digital marketing was noted, as one third of the ads examined included a call to action with the promotion of a website or Twitter hashtag. The researchers observed that around one third of 8-15 year olds frequently used mobile devices while watching TV.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff