Labelling food products



Gepubliceerd op
10 oktober 2013

Nudging mainly involves implicit steering as explicit advice often leads to reactance among consumers. As soon as consumers feel that their choice is being influenced by producers and sellers this can lead to an adverse reaction, which means they might even make the opposite choice to the one they were being nudged towards.
Another effect results from the large number of product suggestions consumers constantly experience, which train them to block or filter the information. It is nevertheless possible to use explicit information for effectively influencing consumers.

In previous newsletters, we listed two experiments in which products in the Restaurant of the Future came with objective information for healthy and sustainable choices (calorie level and the amount of CO2 produced per portion, respectively). As this minor information did not explicitly steer the visitors to the Restaurant of the Future towards a certain choice it is also considered nudging. The suggestion is implicit; it is assumed that everyone knows that fewer calories are healthier and that less CO2 emissions is more sustainable.

The effects of the labels were mixed. In the CO2 labelling experiment the lunch moment was shown not to be ideal for actively processing the information and converting it into a (desired) choice. Only a combination of coloured labels with a frame of reference and a detailed information flow about consumption and climate effects nudged consumers to occasionally choose a ‘greener’ lunch. We believe that with the right framing (‘this cheese contains fewer calories than the one beside it’, ‘this chicken soup results in less CO2 emission than the beef soup’) the explicit labels may lead to implicit emotional associations for the desired products and thus to healthier and more sustainable choices.

Spaargaren, G, et al. / Sociologia Ruralis (2013) doi: 1/soru.12009
Kolfschoten, C.J, et all, 2012 Food & Biobased Research Rapport 1304