Green Food Labels Make Nutrition-Poor Food Seem Healthy

This is interesting, although not perhaps surprising, study finding that consumers are more likely to perceive an unhealthy food such as a candy bar as more healthful when it has a green coloured calorie label compared with when it had a red one - even though the number of calories are the same. And green coloured labels increase the perceived healthfulness of foods, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating.

The citation and abstract for the paper is as follows: Schuldt J P (2013). Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Color Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness. Health Communication, 1 DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2012.725270

The food industry has recently implemented numerous front-of-package nutrition labels to readily convey key aspects a food product's nutritional profile to consumers (e.g., calories and fat content). Although seemingly well-intentioned, such labels might lead consumers to perceive relatively poor nutrition foods in a healthier light. The present research explores whether one underresearched aspect of nutrition labels—namely, their color—might influence perceptions of a product's healthfulness. In Study 1, participants perceived a candy bar as healthier when it bore a green rather than a red calorie label, despite the fact that the labels conveyed the same calorie content. Study 2 examined the perceived healthfulness of a candy bar bearing a green versus white calorie label and assessed individual differences in the importance of healthy eating. Overall, results suggest that green labels increase perceived healthfulness, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating. Discussion focuses on implications for health-related judgment and nutrition labeling.

You can download it here. Science Daily has covered the paper here.

NB: the colour and design of packaging is also extremely likely to influence consumers’ views on the environmental ‘greenness’ of a product – if anyone knows of any research here please send it through

For more on labelling see here. The consumption section of the website has papers etc on consumer behaviour.

18 Mar 2013