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Types of front of pack food labels: Do obese consumers care? Evidence from Northern Ireland

Mara Thiene, Riccardo Scarpa, Alberto Longo and William George Hutchinson

Food Policy, 2018, vol. 80, issue C, 84-102

Abstract: The introduction of an effective Front of Pack food labelling (FoPL) system is at the forefront of the food policy debate. Nutritional information is seen as an effective tool to help fight obesity and its associated co-morbidities, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, for which unhealthy diet represent a major preventable risk factor. This paper explores the influence of FoPL formats on consumer’s stated choice of weekly food baskets using data from a discrete choice experiment carried out in Northern Ireland in 2011. Two of the three baskets were experimentally designed while the third represented the respondent’s actual current food choice (or status-quo basket). Four nutritional attributes were used: (i) total fat, (ii) saturated fat, (iii) salt, and (iv) sugar. Baskets were portrayed at different price levels to elicit the sensitivity of choice to price and to derive marginal willingness to pay estimates. Results from random utility models with various forms of heterogeneity reject the null of no association between preference classes and healthier food baskets and also the null of no effect of the nutritional information described. We find that the influence of the FoPL format used to convey nutritional information combines with selected socio-demographic covariates to determine membership to preference classes. A sensitivity analysis is used to validate the preferred model and the response sensitivity of selection probabilities to potential policy levers, such as a more realistic appreciation of self-body image and the habit of reading labels.

Keywords: Food choice; Dietary habits; Discrete choice experiment; Front of pack food labels (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:80:y:2018:i:c:p:84-102