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Organic food labels 'trick' us into thinking food is healthier and tastier
Perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered
when a food is labelled 'organic'Organic foods were estimated to have significantly fewer calories and taste lower in fat
Customers were also willing to pay 23% more for them

By
Fiona Macrae

PUBLISHED:

14:51 GMT, 2 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:37 GMT, 3 April 2013

It is seen as healthier and tastier – and millions of shoppers willingly pay more to enjoy it.

But, say researchers, the benefits of organic food may simply exist in our heads.

They believe it is gaining from a ‘health halo effect’, where consumers assume foods labelled as organic automatically have positive features.

Putting an organic label on ordinary foods can trick shoppers into believing that they are healthier, taste better and have fewer calories

Putting an organic label on ordinary foods can trick shoppers into believing that they are healthier, taste better and have fewer calories

These include being better for us, tastier and having fewer calories.

For their study, scientists asked 115 male and female shoppers to take part in a taste test.

They were given two samples of
biscuits, crisps and yoghurt. Each pair was labelled as either organic
or non-organic but, in reality, they were identical organic foods.

The results showed that the shoppers’ perceptions were swayed by the labels.

Volunteers who thought certain types of yogurt and cookies were organic estimated them to have significantly fewer calories and people willing to pay up to 23 per cent more for them

Volunteers who thought certain types of yogurt and cookies were organic estimated them to have significantly fewer calories and people willing to pay up to 23 per cent more for them

Those tagged ‘organic’ were seen as being lower fat and containing up to a quarter fewer calories.

They were also rated as higher in fibre and more nutritious, according to a report in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

Crucially for retailers, the shoppers were willing to pay up to a quarter more for snacks they believed were organic.

But, said the researchers from Cornell University in New York State, the ‘non-organic’ biscuits were judged to be tastier.

This was possibly because people may instinctively think healthy biscuits will not taste as good.

The authors have previously warned that the effect could lead to over-eating as shoppers under-estimate calorie counts.


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