Marketing tactics actually work. is always watching and learning how consumers can be led to believe whatever food manufacturers want them to through the simple use of marketing tactics. We’ve discussed this phenomenon often on our blog and our Facebook page. Words like “natural”, “healthy”, “whole grain”, and “multi-grain” often dissuade consumers from reading ingredient lists and fully understanding the products they purchase. Foods marketed to kids often employ the use of a cute, colorful cartoon character that “speaks” directly to them. The list goes on and on.

Today we came across some fascinating research regarding food product marketing. Specifically, the research took a look at the use of a green calorie label appearing on the front of packaging. It appears that this study out of Cornell University has discovered that consumers are more likely to think that a food is healthy if it carries a green calorie label as opposed to a red one … even if the calorie count is exactly the same. It appears that consumers associate the green label with healthfulness – especially among those consumers who place high value on healthy eating.

93 university students were asked to imagine that they were hungry and they see a candy bar while waiting on a grocery checkout line. The students were shown an image of a candy bar with either a red or a green calorie label. They were asked whether the candy bar with the green label contained a greater or lesser number of calories than the candy bar with the red label and how healthy it was in comparison. The students consistently perceived the candy bar with the green label as healthier than the bar with the red label, even though the calorie count was exactly the same.

The experiment was repeated with almost 40 online participants. These consumers were shown images of candy with green or white labels. They were asked how important health was as a factor in their food purchasing decisions. The more importance the participants placed on health as a decision-making factor in food purchases, the more they perceived the green-labeled candy bar as healthier to eat.

Front-of-package labeling has become increasingly popular as a way to attract consumers with a desirable calorie count in the foods they are purchasing. These labels are designed to be conspicuous, especially at point of purchase. And they are especially prevalent on candies and other sugary snacks. The research suggests that the color of the label may have more of an effect on the consumer’s perception than the actual information the label is attempting to convey. This has tremendous implications for food labeling and suggests that the FDA might serve the public well be instituting a uniform front-of-package labeling system. can actually understand how consumers may automatically relate the color green with healthier food choices. These days, everything good is “green”. We have green cleaning products, green fabrics, green paper products, etc. All of these are designed to be better for our environment. And we relate the word “green” with better products because of that. But that association is carrying over to food labeling, when it really shouldn’t be the case. Let’s remember that not all green is clean and good for us – especially when it comes to front-of-package labeling in our food supply. Just because the label is green, doesn’t mean we should really consider the product healthy.
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