Food labeling effects in marketing
YANG Qiaoying, LIU Wumei, ZHANG Dong
Advances in Psychological Science
2021, 29 (9):
As a tool to convey food-related information to consumers, food labels can effectively solve the problem of information asymmetry in food consumption. With the popularization of food labels in practice, more and more scholars have begun to pay attention to the impact of different food labels on consumer behavior. However, most of the existing studies focus on a single food label type and its effects, lacking of comparison and discussion on the effects of different food labels and their inherent mechanisms and boundary conditions. Based on this, this paper reviews the research on food labels in the field of marketing, which focuses on how different types of food labels affect individuals' cognition, emotion and behavior. Meanwhile, this paper introduces the regulatory orientation theory to explain the different effects of different food labels, and on this basis, a more integrated food label effect framework is constructed in this paper.
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Through combing the existing literature, the existing research on food labeling has roughly underwent three stages. The first stage began in the early 1980s. The demand for the nutritional value of food led to the attention and research on the nutrition label. The second stage started around 2000. Scholars mainly focus on labels that can convey information about food safety and quality. In the third stage, in the last decade, eco-environmental labels attracted more attention from consumers and scholars. Based on the different levels of information coverage, food labels can be divided into two types: product-level labels and ingredient-level labels. The product-level label refers to the label which is used to explain the overall characteristics and quality information of the food (including date label, health warning label, organic label, natural label, brand information, genetically modified organism label, eco label, and fair trade label). However, the ingredient-level label refers to the label that is used to display the specific nutritional information of the food (including nutrition facts panel, GDA label, low-fat label, health claim, traffic light label, health star rating, calorie menu label, shelf label).
Further analysis and comparison showed that different types of food labels differ in influencing results, mechanism of action, and boundaries. Specifically, the product-level labels can arouse consumers' perceptions of safety, risk, and morality, and can effectively increase consumers' trust in products. At the same time, after purchasing products with such labels, consumers will show more food waste and repeated purchases. Ingredient-level labels, on the other hand, mainly affects consumers' perceptions of product health, as well as subsequent food choices and food intake. The theory of regulatory orientation helps to explain the different effects of the two types of food labels. The product-level labels more often initiate consumer preventive orientation, while the ingredient-level labels activate consumer promotion orientation. In addition, the two types of food labeling effects are driven by the halo effect, information processing, conceptual metaphor, social identity, attribute inference and other mechanisms. Besides, these effects are moderated by social demographic factors, individual differences, and product characteristics.
On the one hand, combing and commenting on the effects of different food labels can provide reference for food manufacturers to carry out food marketing practices. On the other hand, through the construction of food label research framework in the field of marketing, it can point out the context and direction for marketing scholars to carry out empirical research on food label. Based on the overall framework of food labeling effects constructed in this paper, we propose that further research on the topic of food label can be carried out from following aspects in the future: (1) Expanding the behavioral results of ingredient-level labels; (2) Expanding the behavioral results of product-level labels; (3) Exploring the impact of different food label presentation forms on consumers; (4) Expanding the outer packaging labels and related research; and (5) Exploring the reversal mechanism of the negative effects of food labels.