Healthier Juicier

Health Claims: Marketing Tool for Premium Food Brands?

Have you ever wondered about the real purpose of health claims for food? If so, then have a look at this study to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Kelly Haws and colleagues studied consumer beliefs about the health benefits of different foods at different prices. In five experiments, the authors found consistent evidence that people believe more expensive products have more health benefits.

Health claims help food marketers sell more of their brands at higher prices.

Consumers believe the same products are less healthy at a lower price. Apparently, cheap food equals junk food. Actual nutrition information is not so relevant. In fact, one of the experiments showed that consumers demanded much stronger proof for the benefits of an inexpensive product. For the same product at a higher price, they took the benefits for granted. One of the authors, Rebecca Reczek of the Ohio State University, explained:

It’s concerning. The findings suggest that price of food alone can impact our perceptions of what is healthy and even what health issues we should be concerned about. People don’t just believe that healthy means more expensive. They’re making choices based on that belief.

Whole Foods figured this out some time ago. That business thrives by charging premium prices for the ingredients of healthy eating. Academics can debate whether healthy eating is necessarily more expensive. But it doesn’t really matter. Healthy eating is more expensive because we want it to be so. Our thinking it makes it true.

Which brings us to a genuine truth from Marion Nestle. “Health claims are about marketing. They are not about health,” she says. “Foods are foods, not drugs.”

Click here and here for further perspective. For related news about FDA’s quest to better define claims that foods are “healthy,” click here.

Healthier Juicier, photograph © Bridget McKenzie / flickr

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January 7, 2017