Less is More (Natural): The Effect of Ingredient Quantity Framing on Consumer Preferences and Naturalness Perceptions
46 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2022
Date Written: August 10, 2022
Despite the ubiquity of ingredient quantity information in the marketplace, prior literature has yet to examine whether and how ingredient quantity shapes consumer choice. Eight preregistered experiments show that this pervasive information regularly distorts consumers’ consequential product decisions. In two large field experiments, consumers are more interested in products framed as containing few ingredients (vs. when they are framed as containing many ingredients or when there is no mention of ingredient quantity), even when the ingredient list is displayed and held constant across framings. The current research finds that this preference is fueled by the perception that products with fewer ingredients are more natural. As a result, consumers with a greater preference for naturalness are also more likely to choose products with fewer ingredients. In line with previous research finding that consumers prefer naturalness less for curative products than for preventative products, the effect attenuates when the product is meant to cure (vs. prevent) an ailment. This research sheds light on consumers’ lay beliefs about naturalness, uncovers how the ingredient quantity information which pervades the marketplace biases consumers’ daily product decisions, and provides actionable and easily-implementable guidance for marketers seeking to increase their market share.
Keywords: naturalness, ingredients, lay beliefs, healthiness, product labeling, product decisions
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