Less is More (Natural): The Effect of Ingredient Quantity Framing on Consumer Preferences and Naturalness Perceptions

51 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2022 Last revised: 22 Feb 2024

See all articles by Michelle Kim

Michelle Kim

University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Rady School of Management, Students

Tianqi Chen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley

Sydney Scott

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Daniella Kupor

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Remi Trudel

Boston University

Date Written: August 10, 2022

Abstract

Despite the ubiquity of ingredient quantity information in the marketplace, prior literature has yet to examine whether ingredient quantity shapes consumer choice. We present and test a novel framework that charts when, how, and why this pervasive ingredient quantity information distorts consumers’ food decisions. Across eight experiments, including two large field studies, consumers are more interested in food products framed as containing few (vs. many) ingredients, even when the same ingredient list is displayed across products. We find that consumers believe that products with few ingredients have undergone less processing and are therefore more natural, which leads consumers to prefer food products containing few ingredients. We also build an overarching theoretical framework that illuminates when ingredient quantity information can have opposing effects on consumer behavior: When consumers’ common goal to consume natural products is overshadowed by other consumption goals (e.g., the goal to seek indulgent or unique products), the effect of ingredient quantity information on preferences reverses. This research sheds light on consumers’ lay beliefs about naturalness, uncovers how the ingredient quantity information that pervades the marketplace biases consumers’ daily food product decisions, and provides easily implementable guidance for marketers seeking to increase consumers’ likelihood of purchasing their products.

Keywords: naturalness, ingredients, lay beliefs, healthiness, product labeling, product decisions

Suggested Citation

Kim, Michelle and Chen, Tianqi and Gershon, Rachel and Scott, Sydney and Kupor, Daniella and Trudel, Remi, Less is More (Natural): The Effect of Ingredient Quantity Framing on Consumer Preferences and Naturalness Perceptions (August 10, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4186401 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4186401

Michelle Kim (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Rady School of Management, Students ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

Tianqi Chen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Sydney Scott

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Daniella Kupor

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Remi Trudel

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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