Eating with a Purpose: Consumer Response to Functional Food Health Claims
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 221-233, Fall 2009
14 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2011 Last revised: 22 Oct 2015
Date Written: 2009
Marketers of food products have recently introduced a variety of "functional foods" that promise consumers improvements in targeted physiological functions. However, despite the proliferation of functional food health claims promising more than basic nutrition, little is known about consumer responses to these claims, particularly in information environments in which inconsistent information may be available about the efficacy of a particular functional ingredient. Across two studies, the authors demonstrate that consumers with lower health consciousness are particularly sensitive to conflicting information about the validity of a functional food health claim; specifically, the presentation of conflicting (versus complementary) information significantly lowers their likelihood of choosing a functional over a nonfunctional food. In contrast, consumers with higher health consciousness do not reduce their likelihood of choosing a functional food when confronted with conflicting information. The authors demonstrate that this effect is driven by a confirmatory bias to believe the functional food health claim on the part of more health conscious consumers. The authors discuss implications for the successful marketing of functional foods and for public policy makers and consumers.
Keywords: confirmatory bias, Food and Drug Administration, functional food health claims, functional foods, health consciousness
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