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Seduced by the Label: How the Recommended Serving Size on Nutrition Labels Affects Food Sales

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 1 (1), 2016, 104-114

21 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 6 Dec 2016

Ossama Elshiewy

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Steffen Jahn

University of Goettingen (Gottingen); University of Goettingen

Yasemin Boztug

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Date Written: January 1, 2016

Abstract

As consumers pay greater attention to nutrition content when choosing food, voluntary front-of-pack labels have become popular tools for food marketers. However, voluntary nutrition labels provide certain freedoms regarding the disclosed information which can be exploited. A common strategy is to disclose nutrition values based on smaller recommended serving sizes which presents the nutrition amounts favorably on the label. Problematically, consumers can misinterpret such information and draw biased conclusions regarding product healthiness. This study uses purchase data with 61 products from both healthy (yogurt) and unhealthy (cookies) categories to analyze how recommended serving sizes on nutrition labels affect food sales. In line with our predictions, sales increased after a label introduction in the healthy (but not in the unhealthy) category for products with smaller recommended serving sizes. Since the least healthy versions within the category tend to have smaller recommended serving sizes, nutrition labels can stimulate sales of unhealthier food.

Keywords: Front-of-pack nutrition labeling, Recommended serving size, Health halo, Food marketing, Purchase data

JEL Classification: M31

Suggested Citation

Elshiewy, Ossama and Jahn, Steffen and Boztug, Yasemin, Seduced by the Label: How the Recommended Serving Size on Nutrition Labels Affects Food Sales (January 1, 2016). Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 1 (1), 2016, 104-114. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2705141

Ossama Elshiewy (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
D-37073
Germany

Steffen Jahn

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

University of Goettingen ( email )

Goettingen
Germany

Yasemin Boztug

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

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