Health Vs. Price

The Lempert Report
April 06, 2023

A new study out of the UK was just published in Frontiers and Nutrition. 405 participants were tested on adding healthy labels to online purchases. And then they had three buckets. One was to be actively recording your choices. Second is pre-commitment, third is social comparison. And what they found is those people who were in that first group actively record their choices about healthier foods. Well guess what? Their consumption of healthier foods went up and the other group that offered a discount, theirs didn't go up nearly as much. So, if you relate to information versus discount it looks like the information wins. And the third category where it was about what your peers were buying really had very little influence at all. 

Sally: Yes, this is a very interesting study and it's a little bit not surprising that self-monitoring was what encouraged people the most to buy those healthy products. We have seen research for years now about food journaling and recording what you eat and following that and how effective that is in eating healthier. There are apps out there now that we use to help track our fitness, to track what we eat. People use them to quit smoking or to cut down on their alcohol. So this is something that our culture has sort of been turned onto as a method to track their streak as you would, their healthy streak and to feel motivated by that. 

Phil: Yeah, and as we're talking about labels, there's also a European commission that is proposing limits on environmental labeling. There's a lot of schemes out there now, whether it's for air miles, whether it's social injustice. There's over 230 different environmental labels. And what they're finding is that they're not very accurate, and they're not helpful. And almost a third of people are saying, "we don't believe what these labels say". So in this case, I think that the good news is that the government is, at least in Europe, is gonna set in and really regulate what these sustainable labels can be. We don't have that here. We have a lot of interest from retailers wanting to get more into sustainability, both on labeling as well as demanding from the products that they buy, what those sustainability practices are. But it all comes down to the fact that maybe we can't believe the information. 

Sally: Yes, the amount of these labels has really taken a lot of meaning out of the ones that actually do have meaning to us. So, it is important for there to be some sort of understanding that consumers can have not only what they mean, but also who is certifying this label. Is it a third party? Is this a self-certification? Where is that coming from? I believe consumers need to know that. 

Phil: Absolutely. And I think that you bring up a really good point that there's a lot of phony labels out there that companies are self certifying themselves. That might not be true. Again, from the EU, they're looking at pesticide use, carbon sinks, non circulatory of fossil energy use and food production, off season production, biodiversity positive impacts on nature and ecosystems, GMOs and animal welfare. So maybe we go from 232 of these labels down to a meaningful half a dozen, and then people start believing them.