Health Halo Effects from Product Titles and Nutrient Content Claims in the Context of "Protein" Bars

Health Commun. 2018 Dec;33(12):1425-1433. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1358240. Epub 2017 Aug 30.

Abstract

Research on front-of-package (FOP) labeling demonstrates that nutrient content claims (e.g., "low fat") can lead consumers to perceive foods as healthier in general-effects that have been interpreted using halo effect theories of impression formation. Extending this work, the present study investigates whether these effects may depend on whether nutrient information comes in the form of a nutrient content claim ("good source of protein") or embedded within the product title itself ("protein" bar)-an important question given the popularity of energy/nutrition bars and ongoing policy debates over food-labeling regulation. Results from a between-subjects experiment (n = 274) revealed that although both conditions increased perceived protein content for a nutritional bar, only the product title condition increased overall perceptions of product healthfulness-an effect mediated by increased perceptions of additional non-claimed "healthy" nutrients (fiber, iron). Finally, although the presence of a traffic light warning label increased perceived sugar and calorie content, it did not counteract the effect of the product title on perceived healthfulness. We conclude with a discussion focused on implications for policy and health halo effects in the context of food labeling.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diet, Healthy / psychology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food Labeling*
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New England
  • Nutrients
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Perception*
  • Proteins
  • Random Allocation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Proteins