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Light and Pale Colors in Food Packaging: When Does This Package Cue Signal Superior Healthiness or Inferior Tastiness?

Robert Mai, Claudia Symmank and Berenike Seeberg-Elverfeldt

Journal of Retailing, 2016, vol. 92, issue 4, 426-444

Abstract: In food packaging, light and pale colors are often used to highlight product healthiness. What has been largely overlooked is that this seemingly positive health cue may also convey another crucial piece of information. It is this paper’s premise that light-colored packages evoke two opposing effects: They stimulate favorable health impressions (health effect) and they activate detrimental taste inferences (taste effect) which jointly guide the purchase decision. To contribute to a better understanding of when this package cue is an asset or a liability, this research elucidates the boundary conditions under which the opposing effects operate. The unfavorable color-induced taste effect should be particularly dominant when (i) consumers have a strong need to make heuristic taste inferences (i.e., when tasting is not possible) and (ii) when health is not the overarching goal (e.g., for less health-conscious consumers). A series of experiments manipulating actual food packages confirms that the package health cue can indeed trigger negative taste associations in the consumer’s mind that backfire. Marketers therefore are advised to consider the identified contingencies carefully.

Keywords: Packaging; Color; Experiment; Food decision making; Health consciousness; Unhealthy=tasty intuition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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