Sunday, October 23, 2011
Grand Ballroom AB (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Poster Board # 29
(BEC) Behavioral Economics

Candidate for the Lee B. Lusted Student Prize Competition

Hannah McClure, BSc, Danny Campbell, PhD and W. George Hutchinson, Professor, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom

Purpose: Increasing levels of obesity have signalled a need for dietary change. Food choice is a fundamental factor in weight control and front of pack (FOP) nutritional food labelling is a widely used tool to help consumers reach healthy food choices. This paper explores the influence of FOP nutritional food labelling format on consumer food choices.

Method: We examine the effects of FOP label format with data collected using the discrete choice experiment methodology. The experiment required respondents to choose between two experimentally designed food baskets and their current (or status-quo) food basket. Each food basket was described in terms of four nutritional attributes: (i) fat, (ii) saturated fat, (iii) salt, and, (iv) sugar.  A price attribute was also included to portray the baskets at different price levels. Using a variety of discrete choice models we explore the framing effects that competing FOP labelling styles have on influencing shopping behaviour for healthy food.

Result: Results indicate that the behaviour and tendency of respondents choosing healthy food baskets versus their current (unhealthy) food basket is sensitive to the manner in which the nutritional information is described to them.  We observe that, in general, using a ‘traffic-light’ colouring scheme leads to the most significant shift towards healthy food choices compared to a ‘pastel’ colouring scheme.  Nevertheless, we find that the influence of the colour scheme used to convey nutritional information varies among different subsets of sociodemographic groups and obese and non-obese individuals. Evidence that the different formats lead to different levels of cognitive burden is also found.

Conclusion: FOP labelling format appears to have an influence on consumer’s ability to make healthier food choices. A consistent approach to FOP labelling may result in less consumer confusion, healthier food decisions and, thus, have gains from a public health perspective. These findings offer an independent evaluation and contribute to the ongoing debate on FOP food labelling and the FOP format which leads to the healthiest food choices.