Putting buzzword ingredients such as ancient grains up front catches shoppers' attention and promotes a message of nutrition and clean label.

Three seconds — that’s how much time shoppers spend looking at food packaging and making judgment calls on what’s inside. The real estate of the front of that package is precious, as a brand’s marketing team has such a short window to grab shoppers’ attention and hold it long enough to convince them to make the purchase. “We’re all competing for consumer attention at the grocery store, whether it’s the snack wall, the bread wall or the chip wall,” said Dan Letchinger, product manager, Dave’s Killer Bread, Milwaukie, OR.

This competition bombards consumers with messages of whole grains, gluten-free, protein, fiber, organic, non-GMO and all other assortments of buzzwords aimed to draw shoppers in. It can get overwhelming.

“Consumers are confused,” said Phil Lempert, author and food industry expert at the Snack Food Association’s annual convention this year. “We see that time and again, and why not? They see all different messages.”

Food marketers have to walk a fine line of simplifying their message and then communicating it effectively. “The value is understanding what is the claim that’s going to resonate most prominently with your consumers,” said Brett Hartmann, category manager, snacks, Hain Celestial, Lake Success, NY. “To that end we vary what we say on packaging, but we want to try to be focused and highlight those one or two claims that will resonate with our target consumer set.”

Front of package offers marketers an opportunity to communicate with consumers, dispel misinformation and educate them. “The real value is the information you’re sharing with the consumer,” Mr. Hartmann said. “Consumers are concerned with what’s going into the product, and if you can give that information to them up front, then they can make those decisions.”

And in this new climate of consumers who are hungry for information about their food, these claims are more important than ever. “It’s what consumers want,” Mr. Letchinger said. “They want transparency; they want education.”

With the heaps of nutritional misinformation consumers have to wade through, now is the time for straight-forward front-of-package marketing. Done are the days of the ubiquitous “natural,” and the absence of that controversial term has given rise to the use of more specific claims such as organic, GMO-free or calling out nutritional benefits.