Rebranding: The Solution to Veggie Consumption?

Derek Ebot-Akoachere, Mercer University College of Pharmacy

 

An estimated 396 million adults in the world were found to be obese in 2005. This may increase to 1.12 billion in 2030 if current trends remain unabated. [1] The Food and Drug Administration is fighting to curb this health issue by food labeling and education campaigns. [2] People tend to rate foods they perceive as healthy to be less tasty [3] because they are labeled with less appealing descriptors, [4] which may render health-focused labeling counter-effective. This begs the question: what if healthy foods were labeled with more appealing descriptors?

Association Between Indulgent Descriptions and Vegetable Consumption [5]
Design Observational; N= 8,279
Objective To determine the relationship between indulgent vegetable description and change in vegetable consumption
Study Groups Indulgent, basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive
Methods Means were compared using analysis of variance. Sample size included undergraduate students, graduate students, and staff who ate lunch at the university cafeteria. No changes were made to how the vegetables were prepared or served.

Descriptors for the different labeling groups included the following: indulgent – rich buttery roasted sweet corn; basic – corn; healthy restrictive – reduced-sodium corn; healthy positive – vitamin-rich corn.

Duration 46 days
Primary Outcome Measure Consumption in vegetables and mass of vegetables consumed
Baseline Characteristics
Proportion of sample, %
Undergraduate students 52.5
Graduate students 32.5
Staff/others 15
Results
95% CI p-value
Increased consumption, %
Indulgent vs. basic 25 0.01-0.49 0.04
Indulgent vs healthy restrictive 41 0.18-0.64 0.001
Indulgent vs. healthy positive 35 0.10-0.60 0.01
Increased mass of vegetable consumed, %
Indulgent vs. basic 23 0.03-0.43 0.03
Indulgent vs. healthy restrictive 33 0.11-0.53 0.004
Indulgent vs. healthy positive 16 -0.005-0.36 0.14
Adverse Events Common Adverse Events: N/A
Serious Adverse Events: N/A
Percentage that Discontinued due to Adverse Events: N/A
Study Author Conclusions Labeling vegetables with indulgent descriptions increased the number of people choosing vegetables as well as the amount of vegetables consumed.

 

These results challenge existing solutions that aim to promote healthy eating by highlighting health properties or benefits and extend previous research that used other creative labeling strategies. The amount of increase in individual consumption was not determined and the short duration of the study may warrant a larger study with subgroups analyses. The effect of food cost, which could be a determinant of consumption, was overlooked.

 

References

[1] Kelly T, Yang W, Chen CS, Reynolds K, He J. Global burden of obesity in 2005 and projections to 2030. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32(9):1431-7.

[2] Commissioner of the FDA. Basics – What is FDA doing to lower/reduce the risk of childhood obesity? U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. https://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm320743.htm. Accessed June 25, 2017.

[3] Raghunathan  R, Naylor  RW, Hoyer  WD.  The unhealthy=tasty intuition and its effects on taste inferences, enjoyment, and choice of food products.  J Mark. 2006;70(4):170-184.

[4] Turnwald  BP, Jurafsky  D, Conner  A, Crum  AJ.  Reading between the menu lines: are restaurants’ descriptions of “healthy” foods unappealing?  Health Psychol. 2017. In press.

[5] Turnwald BP, Boles DZ, Crum AJ. Association Between Indulgent Descriptions and Vegetable Consumption: Twisted Carrots and Dynamite Beets. JAMA Intern Med. 2017. Available at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2630753. Accessed: June 25, 2017.

 

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