University of Delaware Helps Us Decode Food Labels and Understand Their Impact on Consumer Behavior

In *All, Food Security, Nutrition & Health by Ag is America

“Organic,” “fair-trade,” “cage free” – what do these terms really mean? For consumers, these terms indicate that the food is healthy, high-quality, and should be purchased. For scientists, they’re misleading and more damaging in the stigma they create, not the content of the food.

The University of Delaware recently led a study published in the Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy journal, analyzing how food labels are positively and negatively influencing consumer behavior. They’re particularly concerned for people who may misunderstand which food items are safe.

“[It] has me worried about the poor and those who are food-insecure,” said Kent Messer, the study’s lead author and the director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at University of Delaware. “Because now you’re trying to make everything a high-end food choice and, frankly, we just want to have healthy food choices. We don’t need to have extra labels that scare away people.”

The problem is that the labels focus on the production of the food but ignore important outcomes of the process such as taste or healthiness. When consumers are at the grocery store and are presented with an overwhelming amount of options and not much time to decide, they tend to be attracted to a brand or a term they’re comfortable with. Labeling foods gives consumers an insight into the market and a way to better understand where their food came from, but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better or worse.

For more information on what these messages are, how to better interpret them, and how this consumer behavior can impact the future of the food industry, read more here.

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