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Measuring the Impact of Nutrition Labels on Food Purchasing Decisions: A field experiment with scanner data

  • Joshua P. Berning


    (University of Connecticut)

  • Hayley H. Chouinard


    (Washington State University)

  • Jill J. McCluskey


    (Washington State University)

A simple experiment is used to examine the effect of grocery store nutrition labels on the sales of microwave popcorn in the East Bay area of California. Using an incomplete demand system we estimate the impact of the nutrition labels on sales of healthy (products that merit a nutrition label) and unhealthy (products that do not merit a nutrition label) microwave popcorn. Contrary to expectations, we find that nutrition labels decrease sales of healthy popcorn and increase sales of unhealthy popcorn across all stores. We speculate that nutrition labels on popcorn may signal unwanted product characteristics such as undesirable taste. Our findings highlight unintended effects created by nutrition labels. In terms of public welfare, it is important to consider not just the content of private industry nutrition labels but the effect they have on consumer behavior.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy in its series Food Marketing Policy Center Research Reports with number 117.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zwi:fpcrep:117
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  1. Hayley H. Chouinard & David E. Davis & Jeffrey LaFrance & Jeffrey M. Perloff, 2008. "Milk Marketing Order Winners and Losers," Working Papers 2009-03, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
  2. Jeffrey T. LaFrance, 1990. "Incomplete Demand Systems And Semilogarithmic Demand Models," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 34(2), pages 118-131, 08.
  3. Foster, William & Just, Richard E., 1989. "Measuring welfare effects of product contamination with consumer uncertainty," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 266-283, November.
  4. LaFrance, Jeffrey T., 2004. "Integrability of the linear approximate almost ideal demand system," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 297-303, September.
  5. Kling, Catherine L. & Dorfman, Jeffrey & Sexton, Richard, 1990. "Confidence Intervals for Elasticities and Flexibilities: Re-Evaluating the Ratios of Normals Case," Staff General Research Papers 1582, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  6. Mario F. Teisl & Nancy E. Bockstael & Alan Levy, 2001. "Measuring the Welfare Effects of Nutrition Information," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(1), pages 133-149.
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