Organic Labels Bias Consumers Perceptions through the “Health halo effect”

This study found that people who regularly read nutrition labels, those who regularly buy organic food, and those who exhibit pro-environmental behaviors (such as recycling or hiking) are less susceptible to the organic ‘health halo’ effect. So, if you do not consider yourself in one these groups, take a closer look when shopping for organic foods—they are, after all, still cookies and chips!

Cooking with Kathy Man

The word “organic” can mean many things to consumers. Even so, the power of an organic label can be very strong: studies have shown that this simple label can lead us to think that a food is healthier, through what is known as the ‘health halo effect’. But can this bias go further? A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers Lee, Shimizu, Kniffin and Wansink set out to answer this question. Their study shows that an organic label can influence much more than health views: perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered when a food is labeled “organic”. Certain people also appear to be more susceptible to this ‘health halo’ effect than others…are you?

115 people were recruited from a local shopping mall in Ithaca, New York to participate in this study. Participants were asked to evaluate 3 pairs of products— 2 yogurts, 2…

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