Tag Archives: Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab

Study shows ‘organic’ label can create a ‘health halo effect’

2 Apr

photo (1)Being cynical journalist, a poor-and-starving graduate student as well as a self-proclaimed environmentalist, I have gone back and forth on whether or not I believe that the word ‘organic’ has been condensed down to a  mere marketing tactic. A March 17 article by Slate , criticizing the suburbia-praised chain Whole Foods, has increased my skepticism.

A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers found that food items simply carrying the organic label were evaluated as having a more satisfying taste and containing lower calories than the same food item without the organic label.

To conduct the study, the researchers recruited 115 people from a shopping center in Ithaca, New York. The consumers, after answering a questionaire about their environmental and shopping habits, were asked to evauluate three pairs of products: one pair of yogurts, one pair of chips and one pair of cookies. Each pair consisted of one of the items being labeled as organic, and one without. The food items were exaclty identical, except for the way they were labeled.

In addition to rating the organically-labeled items as tastier and better for the waistline, consumers also reported that they were willing to pay up to 23.4 percent more for them. Of course, this ‘health halo effect’ as the researchers dubbed the phenomenon, was more likely to affect consumers who already were more inclined to purchase organic foods.

So–the answer to my question–is the term ‘organic’ merely a marketing scheme?

While I do not know that there is a right or wrong answer to this, I do believe that some companies truly do back their labels and are committed to creating pure organic foods, while others may just be trying to attract the environmentally-conscious consumers who typically earn higher incomes and are more willing to spend more on these products.

Now excuse me while I contemplate this thought by eating a “100 percent natural” Nature Valley granola bar.

Note: the “buy one get one free” label at Publix got my attention before the “100 percent natural” label.

Thoughts?