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How and When Grouping Low-Calorie Options Reduces the Benefits of Providing Dish-Specific Calorie Information

Jeffrey R. Parker and Donald R. Lehmann

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 1, 213 - 235

Abstract: To date the effectiveness of inducing lower-calorie choices by providing consumers with calorie information has yielded mixed results. Here four controlled experiments show that adding dish-specific calorie information to menus (calorie posting) tends to result in lower-calorie choices. However, additionally grouping low-calorie dishes into a single "low-calorie" category (calorie organizing) ironically diminishes the positive effects of calorie posting. This outcome appears to be caused by the effect that grouping low-calorie options has on consumers' consideration sets. When choosing from a calorie-organized menu, consumers are more likely to filter out low-calorie options in the early noncompensatory screening stages of the decision process and, consequently, are less likely to choose low-calorie options. This result disappears when consumers deliberate longer before choosing. These results are important for consumer welfare as well-intentioned restaurateurs (policy makers) may be tempted to institute (mandate) the calorie organization of menus, inadvertently resulting in consumers choosing higher-calorie meals.

Date: 2014
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