The Influence of Nutrition Information on Choice: The Roles of Temptation, Conflict and Self-Control

By Hassan, Louise M.; Shiu, Edward M. K. et al. | The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Nutrition Information on Choice: The Roles of Temptation, Conflict and Self-Control


Hassan, Louise M., Shiu, Edward M. K., Michaelidou, Nina, The Journal of Consumer Affairs


This study investigated the impact of nutrition information on consumers' choice of a cake and examined the roles of key psychological decision factors. Based on a generalized linear model, results of an experiment on 299 female consumers in the United Kingdom showed that the presence of nutrition information in the form of Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) had a direct impact on food choice. GDA information had a moderating effect on the relationship between two psychological factors (conflict and self-control, but not temptation) and consumer choice. Temptation, conflict and self-control had direct effects on choice.

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Public and governmental debate about the harmful effects of obesity and its causes has increased recently. One approach to reducing obesity is public awareness campaigns that encourage consumers to choose food low in fat, sugar and salt. To provide consumers with the appropriate information to make these choices, many countries have made nutrition labeling mandatory on packaged foods (e.g., Nutrition Labeling and Education Act 1990 in the United States; revisions to and harmonization of nutrition labeling in the European Union, European Commission 2008/0028 COD).

Nutrition information on packaged foods is often in the form of nutrition facts panels or Percent Daily Values (%DV). Another nutrition labeling format is the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA), developed in the United Kingdom in 1988 by a coalition of the government, consumer organizations and the food industry. The GDA format typically shows the amount and percent of GDA of calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt for adults or for children (depending on the product type). GDA information is now presented on the front-of-pack in addition to the nutrition facts panel. The GDA format aims to provide a quick source of information when consumers initially view a product (EU Food and Drink Confederation [CIAA] 2009). US companies such as Kellogg's now provide GDA information in monochromic form on the front-of-pack for all of their food products in all countries.

In addition, the prevalence of away-from-home food consumption has increased interest in nutrition information for food served in restaurants (United States Department of Agriculture 2005). In the United States, more than twenty states and localities have considered legislation requiring fast food chain restaurants to provide nutrition information on menus. California was the first US state to pass a menu labeling law (California Menu Labeling Bill (SB 1420) 2008) which requires calorie counts to be displayed on menus and menu boards in fast food and other chain restaurants with twenty or more outlets. Other states have considered stricter legislation requiring not only calorie counts but also other nutrition information such as fat, carbohydrates and sodium contents (Center for Science in the Public Interest 2009).

Previous research on nutrition labeling has focused on how consumers process and use food labels (Krukowski et al. 2006) and on how consumers' individual characteristics and external environments influence attitudes and behavior (Chandon and Wansink 2007; Kemp et al. 2007; Wansink, Sonka, and Hasler 2004). However, being informed and knowledgeable about nutrition information has not always resulted in healthy choices as consumers often equate unhealthy with tasty (Raghunathan, Naylor, and Hoyer 2006).

Limited research has explored the effects of providing GDA information in a restaurant or cafe setting. Further, Chandon and Wansink (2007) highlighted inadequacies in past research that has attended to nutrition evaluation and purchase decisions instead of consumption choice based on calorie assessments. Therefore, research is necessary to understand the psychological factors, primarily temptation, conflict and self-control (Dholakia et al. 2006; Luomala, Laaksonen, and Leipamaa 2004), that influence consumer food choices. …

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