Making Healthful Food Choices

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John C. Kozup, Elizabeth H. Creyer, & Scot Burton

Making Healthful Food Choices: The Influence of Health Claims and Nutrition Information on Consumers' Evaluations of Packaged Food Products and Restaurant Menu Items The authors report the results of three experiments that address the effects of health claims and nutrition information placed on restaurant menus and packaged food labels. The results indicate that when favorable nutrition information or health claims are presented, consumers have more favorable attitudes toward the product, nutrition attitudes, and purchase intentions, and they perceive risks of heart disease and stroke to be lower. The nutritional context in which a restaurant menu item is presented moderates the effects of both nutrition information and a health claim on consumer evaluations, which suggests that alternative (i.e., nontarget) menu items serve as a frame of reference against which the target menu item is evaluated.

mericans have been gaining weight in recent years, and there is significant long-term disease risk associated with this trend. The Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) was expected to help curtail this trend by providing information to assist consumers in making more healthful food choices. Yet today, more than 50% of U.S. adults are overweight, and 12% of school-aged children are obese, twice the number reported 20 years ago (Liebman and Schardt 2001; Spake 2002). It is estimated that in the United States, more than 300,000 deaths per year (14% of all deaths) are directly related to conditions and diseases associated with being overweight and obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2002). The NLEA increased the availability and usefulness of nutrition information on food packages. This was expected to have long-term positive effects on Americans' diets and reduce their risk for heart disease and some types of cancer. The Nutrition Facts panel, mandated on most food packages since 1994, is a widely recognized outcome of the NLEA. Distinctive and easy to read, the Nutrition Facts panel presents information on the amount per serving of saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and other major nutrients and provides nutrient reference values expressed as "% Daily Values" (DV). The NLEA also established criteria by which nutrient and health claims can be made on food packaging. Although health claims have been used on package labels John C. Kozup is an assistant professor, Department of Marketing, Villanova University. Elizabeth H. Creyer is an associate professor, and Scot Burton is a professor and Wal-Mart Chair, Department of Marketing and Transportation, Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas. Order of authorship was determined by a random draw. The authors thank the anonymous JM reviewers for their many helpful comments.

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since 1984, they have been criticized as vague, trivial, or misleading (Silverglade 1996). However, not all foods are covered by all aspects of the NLEA. Among the excluded foods are those sold for immediate consumption, such as in restaurants, on airplanes, and from vending machines (Saltos, Welsh, and Davis 1994). Food sold and served in restaurants is an especially important exception. According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans spent 45% of their food dollars outside the home in 1997, up from 25% in 1955. In 1998, 46% of all adults were restaurant patrons on a typical day. Furthermore, 21% of U.S. households used some type of restaurant takeout or delivery on an average day (National Restaurant Association 2001). Because restaurants are not required to present nutrition information about the food items on their menus, the availability and form of presentation of nutrition information varies. Many restaurants do not make information regarding the nutritional content of their food readily available to consumers. In other restaurants, nutrition information is presented on the menu, placed...
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