Skillful politicians know that labels matter. Don’t call it a tax. Call it enhanced revenue or a user fee.
It’s not much different for consumers and the foods they choose. If it’s labeled “organic,” they are likely to think better of it than if it’s not.
A new study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that the “health halo effect” of organic labels is real: Label it “organic,” and people think it’s healthier, more nutritious, more flavorful and more appetizing.
Researchers recruited 115 people at a shopping mall in Ithaca, N.Y., to take part in the study. Each was asked to evaluate three pairs of products — two yogurts, two cookies and two potato chip portions.
One of each pair was labeled “organic.” The other was labeled “regular.”
What participants didn’t know was that the food pairs were identical. Both were organic.
When asked for their assessments, results showed that people concluded the products labeled “organic” had fewer calories, were lower in fat, more nutritious and more flavorful. People were willing to pay up to 23.4 percent more for them.
The exception was cookies. People said “regular” cookies tasted better.
It’s called the “health halo effect.”
What this suggests is that it’s a good idea to go beyond the name and read the fine print on the nutritional label.
Scrutiny is a good rule of thumb for assessing political rhetoric, too. It might indeed be a fee instead of a tax, but it still means less to spend for groceries, organic or otherwise.