Meanwhile 95% of respondents said they had at least heard of the nutrition standard.
The report came as the labelling system – also in use in Norway, Denmark and Iceland – celebrated its 25th birthday.
The survey, conducted by research firm TNS Sifo, was based on telephone interviews with 1,000 randomly selected people aged 18-75 from across Sweden.
The NFA said the results were positive and demonstrated that the system merited further focus. Anette Jansson, a dietician at the agency, said the survey showed the system was a quick and easy way for people to “get good food home from the store”.
She added that the results were an “important signal to the industry” to continue to invest in keyhole labelling by producing even more products that met its requirements.
The label, determined jointly by the Nordic countries that employed it, was voluntary and free for packaged, fresh and restaurant foods that adhered to its standards on fat, sugar, salt, fibre and wholegrain content. The requirements differed according to food group and were based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations.
Through the keyhole
According to the survey, 48% of Swedes knew the label well or very well, with this awareness being highest among the 30-49 age group and lowest among those aged 66 and over. Conversely these older consumers had the greatest awareness of the ‘swan’ label, a Nordic environmental standard.
Just over half associated the logo with good health and healthy food, while the label stood for more whole grains and fibre, less sugar and fat or just healthier food for those who said they paid attention to nutrition
Points to build on
The majority (68%) of the respondents said they would buy more keyhole products if they were more widely available in major food stores.
Respondents said they also associated the label with good producers and as environmentally friendly, yet others commented it was old fashioned and in need of an update.
One in six Swedes (17%) had never heard of the label or knew it only by name.
While just one in five said they knew or thought they knew NFA was behind the logo. Jansson said this was something that could be built on with greater promotional activity.
Choice or discrepancy?
Critics have suggested regional differences in nutritional labelling was a potential road block on the path to EU food standard harmony.
Yet keyhole labelling has been held up as evidence by proponents of other codes like the traffic light system in the UK that if it can work in places like Sweden without conflicting with ambitions of pan-EU standards, it can work elsewhere too.
This year France proposed a colour-coded labelling scheme similar to the UK.