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Understanding ways to improve the forecast ability of choice experiments in predicting consumers' acceptance of healthy food products

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Packaging nutritional information for consumers

An EU study investigated methods for assessing buyers' responses to nutrition data, and compared experimental methods concerning price sensitivity. Graphical presentation was found to be more effective for consumer choices than text.

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Studies of consumer response to food nutrition labelling rely on discrete choice experiments (DCEs). While generally reliable predictors of what people actually buy, the method also overestimates acceptance of socially desirable food characteristics, such as health or environmental benefits. The EU-funded FOODCHOICE (Understanding ways to improve the forecast ability of choice experiments in predicting consumers' acceptance of healthy food products) project aimed to improve DCEs. The study focused on the power of DCEs to predict adoption of foods making nutrition or health claims, using dairy as an example. The purpose was to understand which product attributes drive consumer choices, and to use that information for marketing. Using eye-tracking experiments, the study first assessed how the amount and form of labelling information affected responder information processing. Results indicated that presentation strongly affects consumer choices. Graphical product simulation more strongly affected decision making compared to text-based tables. Home- and laboratory-based studies differed in consumer fatigue levels. Home-based responders showed fatigue after only 20 choices whereas laboratory counterparts showed none. Secondly, a study of a fruit yoghurt showing a nutritional logo did not reveal any social desirability effects or any effects on consumer choice. The study concluded that any such effects were independent of experimental set-up. Additionally, social desirability meant low price sensitivity; the direct-response format illustrated lower price sensitivity than an inferred valuation method. Finally, results of marketing studies showed that standard DCE formats yielded a better fit with individual purchase records than inferred valuation. While the latter slightly lowered misrepresentation of price sensitivity, the method also gave worse predictions for a product's market share. Project results contributed to the field also in the form of three main recommendations for researchers. Outcomes further include design guidelines for effective graphical presentation of food nutritional information.


Nutritional information, price sensitivity, nutrition labelling, choice experiments, social desirability

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