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Faculty & Research


Healthy in the Wrong Way: Mismatching of Marketers’ Food Claim Use and Consumers’ Preferences in the United States but Not France

Journal Article
Health claims on food packaging can focus on the presence of good (vs. the absence of bad) and the preservation of nature (vs. nutritional improvements). The authors study the frequency of use of four resulting types of claims (“clean,” “whole,” “diet,” and “enriched”) in three categories over the past ten years and contrast it with the preferences and associations of American and French consumers. Focusing on breakfast cereals, the authors find a strong match in France but a mismatch in the United States, where marketers’ claim use is negatively correlated with consumers’ claim preferences. The mismatch arises from the underuse of presence-focused and nutrition-based “enriched” claims (e.g., “added calcium”) and the overuse of absence-focused and nutrition-based “diet” claims (e.g., “low fat”). The mismatch is more pronounced among privately-owned companies than among public companies, which tend to claim that their products are healthy in the way that consumers prefer.

Professor of Marketing