Consumer valuation of health attributes in food
In modern societies consumers often face a trade-off between health and taste, the latter which encourages consumption of fatty, salty and sweet foods, whereas health awareness discourages consumption of the same food. The resulting diet, often rich in calories, sweeteners and fat constitutes a threat to public health as poor nutrition has been linked to several types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis as well as overweight and obesity. In this study we use the hedonic model as an outset to model consumer valuation of nutritional and non-nutritional characteristics of food consumption in a consistent way, accounting for that nutrients might influence utility both through health and through taste. This implies that a given nutrient in one food is not a perfect substitute for the same nutrient contained in another food, which is the case in the classical hedonic price model. However, as we model consumer choice covering the entire food basket then this assumption may be problematic. While assuming that the utility value of decreasing the content of fat in the diet for health reasons is the same irrespective of which food it comes from may be reasonable, it seems obvious that the corresponding implications for taste and consumption experience can vary substantially between different foods. The data that we use to estimate this model cover 2500 household’s food consumption over a year. More specifically the aim of this paper is to investigate the importance of consumers health valuations of five nutrients (saturated fat, sugar, carbohydrates, fibers and protein) relative to taste valuations for different types of foods (like e.g. meat, dairy, fats). The perfect substitutability of the health value of a given nutrient in different foods combined with decreasing marginal utilities of taste could have important implications for how consumers react to different policies.
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