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Calorie labeling and fast food choices in surveys and actual markets: some new behavioral results

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  • Loureiro, Maria L.
  • Rahmani, Djamal

Abstract

We conducted a survey and a randomized natural experiment with the same subjects to investigate the effect of information about calorie intake on fast food choices. This combined approach allows us to maximize both internal and external research validity and test consistency of findings. We find that providing information about calories in a survey context for fast food menus has a moderate effect on calorie consumption, decreasing on average by 2.96 percent the amount of calories of the selected food choices. However, the same nutritional information had no significant impact on actual purchases in the restaurant context. Among the possible menus, the salad menu (the healthiest menu) was the most preferred option by those respondents who received nutritional information in the survey context; whereas in the restaurant, the most popular choice for the same group of people was the “Double bacon burger option” (the least healthy option). Finally, we find that the average calorie content of participants’ actual purchases increases significantly (0.17%) with the number of days elapsed between the day when the survey took place (and information was provided) and the actual purchase day at the restaurant. These results show large discrepancies between stated preferences and actual market behavior. These findings may be justified by the existence of projection bias and subjects acting under rational ignorance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its series 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. with number 150622.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:150622

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Related research

Keywords: actual market behavior; labeling; stated preferences; self-control; projection bias; rational ignorance; Consumer/Household Economics; Demand and Price Analysis; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Marketing; 3C; 9I;

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  1. Bollinger, Bryan & Leslie, Phillip & Sorensen, Alan, 2010. "Calorie Posting in Chain Restaurants," Working Papers 56693, American Association of Wine Economists.
  2. Janet Currie & Stefano DellaVigna & Enrico Moretti & Vikram Pathania, 2010. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 32-63, August.
  3. George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Projection Bias in Predicting Future Utility," General Economics and Teaching 0012003, EconWPA.
  4. Brian E. Roe & David R. Just, 2009. "Internal and External Validity in Economics Research: Tradeoffs between Experiments, Field Experiments, Natural Experiments, and Field Data," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1266-1271.
  5. Berning, Joshua & Chouinard, Hayley & Manning, Kenneth & McCluskey, Jill & Sprott, David, 2009. "Identifying Consumer Preferences for Nutrition Information on Grocery Store Shelf Labels," Research Reports 149962, University of Connecticut, Food Marketing Policy Center.
  6. Michael L. Anderson & David A. Matsa, 2011. "Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 152-88, January.
  7. Julie S. Downs & George Loewenstein & Jessica Wisdom, 2009. "Strategies for Promoting Healthier Food Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 159-64, May.
  8. Jacoby, Jacob & Szybillo, Geroge J & Busato-Schach, Jacqueline, 1977. " Information Acquisition Behavior in Brand Choice Situations," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 209-16, March.
  9. Vossler, Christian & Watson, Sharon, 2012. "Understanding the consequences of consequentiality: Testing the validity of stated preferences in the field," MPRA Paper 48109, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Maria L. Loureiro & Steven T. Yen & Rodolfo M. Nayga, Jr, 2012. "The effects of nutritional labels on obesity," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 43(3), pages 333-342, 05.
  11. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  12. Stewart, Hayden & Blisard, Noel & Jolliffe, Dean, 2006. "Let's Eat Out: Americans Weigh Taste, Convenience, and Nutrition," Economic Information Bulletin 59411, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  13. David R Just & Brian Wansink, 2011. "The Flat-Rate Pricing Paradox: Conflicting Effects of "“All-You-Can-Eat"” Buffet Pricing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 193-200, February.
  14. Jessica Wisdom & Julie S. Downs & George Loewenstein, 2010. "Promoting Healthy Choices: Information versus Convenience," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 164-78, April.
  15. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213.
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