Indulgent Label Use: Can indulgent language choice on packaging influence students’ food choices?

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Given the rise of health concerns threatened by obesity in the Netherlands and worldwide, there is a wide interest in persuading young people to make healthier food choices in order to diminish the risk of related diseases. Indulgent language on food labelling was found to influence the perceived tastiness and furthermore, the purchase intention. Thus, this study tried to answer the research question asking how indulgent language or a health-outcome language on product packaging influence the perceived tastiness, desirability, and ultimately the purchase intention of students. Previous studies focused on real settings, like restaurants, diners or canteens. However, because of the increasing trend of online shopping preference over in person shopping, this study attempted to find out whether the indulgent labelling would have the same impact in an online medium. The present study used six products in total, three healthy and three unhealthy, and three different descriptions: neutral, indulgent (using an attractive, tasty language), and outcome-simulation (expressing the long-term outcomes of eating the product). The 115 native Dutch participants of the experiment were exposed to all conditions, and they had to rate the products on perceived tastiness, desirability, liking, and purchase intention. The findings showed that indulgent language did not have an effect on expected tastiness, desirability, and purchase intention. These results suggest that indulgent language alone does not influence the students’ food choice, and does not necessarily promote a healthier lifestyle. The only significant result was found for living situation. Students living together with their families or partners were more likely to make healthier choices than those who live alone. Key words: indulgent labelling, obesity, students, purchase intention.
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