Lost in processing? Perceived healthfulness, taste and caloric content of whole and processed organic food.
Sommaire de l'article
The "organic" claim explicitly informs consumers about the food production method. Yet, based on this claim, people often infer unrelated food attributes. The current research examined whether the perceived advantage of organic over conventional food generalizes across different organic food types. Compared to whole organic foods, processed organic foods are less available, familiar and prototypical of the organic food category. In two studies (combined N = 258) we investigated how both organic foods types were perceived in healthfulness, taste and caloric content when compared to their conventional alternatives. Participants evaluated images of both whole (e.g., lettuce) and processed organic food exemplars (e.g., pizza), and reported general evaluations of these food types. The association of these evaluations with individual difference variables – self-reported knowledge and consumption of organic food, and environmental concerns – was also examined. Results showed that organically produced whole foods were perceived as more healthful, tastier and less caloric than those produced conventionally, thus replicating the well-established halo effect of the organic claim in food evaluation. The organic advantage was more pronounced among individuals who reported being more knowledgeable about organic food, consumed it more frequently, and were more environmentally concerned. The advantage of the organic claim for processed foods was less clear. Overall, processed organic (vs. conventional) foods were perceived as tastier, more healthful (Study 1) or equally healthful (Study 2), but also as more caloric. We argue that the features of processed food may modulate the impact of the organic claim, and outline possible research directions to test this assumption. Uncovering the specific conditions in which food claims bias consumer's perceptions and behavior may have important implications for marketing, health and public-policy related fields.