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Traffic Lights and Food Choice: A Choice Experiment Examining the Relationship Between Nutritional Food Labels and Price


  • Kelvin Balcombe
  • Iain Fraser


  • Salvatore Di Falco



In this paper we investigate how consumers respond to the UK food label Traffic Light System (TLS). Employing a Choice Experiment (CE) we find that consumers appear to behave in a manner consistent with our expectations regarding the impact of the TLS nutrition label. In particular, we identify a strong preference on the part of respondents to avoid a basket of goods containing a mix of foods with any "Red" lights. We have also found that consumers have a hierarchy of importance in terms of perception of the various nutrients examined and clear behavioural differences associated with particular socio-economic characteristics confirming early research on the use of nutrition labels. Overall our results indicate significant heterogeneity in the attitudes and responses of consumers to food labels within and across socioeconomic strata in terms of the magnitude of WTP.

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  • Kelvin Balcombe & Iain Fraser & Salvatore Di Falco, 2009. "Traffic Lights and Food Choice: A Choice Experiment Examining the Relationship Between Nutritional Food Labels and Price," Studies in Economics 0915, School of Economics, University of Kent.
  • Handle: RePEc:ukc:ukcedp:0915

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    1. Gracia, Azucena & Loureiro, Maria & Nayga, Rodolfo Jr., 2007. "Do consumers perceive benefits from the implementation of a EU mandatory nutritional labelling program?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 160-174, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kelvin Balcombe & Michail Bitzios & Iain Fraser & Janet Haddock-Fraser, 2014. "Using Attribute Importance Rankings Within Discrete Choice Experiments: An Application to Valuing Bread Attributes," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 446-462, June.
    2. repec:eee:forpol:v:86:y:2018:i:c:p:76-85 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Berning, Joshua P. & Sprott, David E., 2011. "Examining the Effectiveness of Nutrition Information in a Simulated Shopping Environment," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 42(3), November.
    4. Andy Grinnall & Simon Burnett, 2015. "First Catch Your Fish: Designing a “Low Energy Fish” Label," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(5), pages 1-16, May.
    5. Hoefkens, Christine & Veettil, Prakashan Chellattan & Van Huylenbroeck, Guido & Van Camp, John & Verbeke, Wim, 2012. "What nutrition label to use in a catering environment? A discrete choice experiment," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 741-750.
    6. Hellyer, Nicole Elizabeth & Fraser, Iain & Haddock-Fraser, Janet, 2012. "Food choice, health information and functional ingredients: An experimental auction employing bread," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 232-245.
    7. Boeri, Marco & Brown, Hannah & Longo, Alberto, 2014. "The implications across Europe of the ‘horse meat scandal’ on the monetary value of meat authenticity and food safety in ready to heat lasagne: evidence from six countries," 2014 International Congress, August 26-29, 2014, Ljubljana, Slovenia 182830, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    8. Sauthoff, Saramena & Danne, Michael & Mußhoff, Oliver, 2017. "To switch or not to switch? Understanding German consumers' willingness to pay for green electricity tariff attributes," DARE Discussion Papers 1707, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development (DARE).
    9. Balcombe, Kelvin & Bradley, Dylan & Fraser, Iain & Hussein, Mohamud, 2016. "Consumer preferences regarding country of origin for multiple meat products," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 49-62.
    10. Øvrum, Arnstein & Alfnes, Frode & Almli, Valérie L. & Rickertsen, Kyrre, 2012. "Health information and diet choices: Results from a cheese experiment," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 520-529.
    11. Jo, Jisung & Lusk, Jayson L. & Muller, Laurent & Ruffieux, Bernard, 2016. "Value of parsimonious nutritional information in a framed field experiment," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 124-133.
    12. Defago, Daniel & Geng, José F. & Molina, Oswaldo & Santa María, Diego, 2017. "Digestible information: The impact of Multiple Traffic Light nutritional labeling in a developing country," MPRA Paper 79678, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Michalopoulos, T. & Hogeveen, H. & Heuvelink, E. & Oude Lansink, A.G.J.M., 2013. "Public multi-criteria assessment for societal concerns and gradual labelling," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 97-108.
    14. Cavaliere, Alessia & De Marchi, Elisa & Banterle, Alessandro, 2013. "Time Preference and Health: The Problem of Obesity," 2013 International European Forum, February 18-22, 2013, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria 164754, International European Forum on Innovation and System Dynamics in Food Networks.
    15. Pallante, Giacomo & Drucker, Adam G. & Sthapit, Sajal, 2016. "Assessing the potential for niche market development to contribute to farmers' livelihoods and agrobiodiversity conservation: Insights from the finger millet case study in Nepal," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 92-105.
    16. Balogh, Péter & Békési, Dániel & Gorton, Matthew & Popp, József & Lengyel, Péter, 2016. "Consumer willingness to pay for traditional food products," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 176-184.
    17. Erdem, Seda & McCarthy, Tony, 2016. "The effect of front-of-pack nutrition labelling formats on consumers’ food choices and decision-making: merging discrete choice experiment with an eye tracking experiment," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 235864, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    18. Debra Van Camp & Diogo M. de Souza Monteiro & Neal H. Hooker, 2012. "Stop or go? How is the UK food industry responding to front-of-pack nutrition labels?," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 39(5), pages 821-842, December.
    19. Y. Gómez & V. Martínez-Molés & J. Vila, 2016. "Spanish regulation for labeling of financial products: a behavioral-experimental analysis," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 33(3), pages 355-378, December.
    20. Angela Tarabella & Lelia Voinea, 2013. "Advantages and Limitations of the Front-of-Package (FOP) Labeling Systems in Guiding the Consumers’ Healthy Food Choice," The AMFITEATRU ECONOMIC journal, Academy of Economic Studies - Bucharest, Romania, vol. 15(33), pages 198-209, February.
    21. Becker, Mark W. & Bello, Nora M. & Sundar, Raghav P. & Peltier, Chad & Bix, Laura, 2015. "Front of pack labels enhance attention to nutrition information in novel and commercial brands," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 76-86.
    22. Wang, Emily Y. & Wei, Hongli & Caswell, Julie A., 2016. "The impact of mandatory trans fat labeling on product mix and consumer choice: A longitudinal analysis of the U.S. Market for margarine and spreads," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 63-81.
    23. Onozaka, Yuko & Lind Melbye, Elisabeth & Hansen, Havard, 2012. "What If You Stop and Think About it? Nutrition Logos and Product Selection Behavior," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124874, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    24. Spinks, Jean & Mortimer, Duncan, 2015. "The effect of traffic lights and regulatory statements on the choice between complementary and conventional medicines in Australia: Results from a discrete choice experiment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 257-265.

    More about this item


    Nutrients; Traffic Light System; Choice Experiment; Bayesian Mixed Logit;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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