Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Organic Labels Make Food Seem Healthier, Tastier

How much does an organic label influence how healthy we think a product is?

Organic Oreos

Photo: Benjamin Ragheb (flickr)

Even cookies are perceived as healthy when they're labeled organic.

A study conducted at Cornell University tested the power of an organic label to influence consumers’ perceptions of food. What they discovered is that the label means an awful lot.

Powerful Perception

A Cornell University study conducted an experiment where 144 randomly selected volunteers were given samples of chocolate sandwich cookies, yogurt, and potato chips. Although all of the foods were actually organic, some were labeled “regular” and some were labeled “organic.”

After a volunteer consumed a sample, they rated the food on a scale of 1-9 in terms of taste and fat content, as well as an estimate of the calorie count in the food.

The Influence Of The Organic Label

The results show that participants consistently rated the organic-labeled food to be better tasting and lower in fat and calories than the regular-labeled food.

Even though both the regular and organic labeled food was made out of the same ingredients, the imagined benefit of foods marked as organic was so convincing that the foods were perceived as better tasting and healthier to the volunteers.

This phenomenon has been dubbed the “health halo.”

Additionally, the participants said they would be willing to pay more for the organic-labeled food.

This study, endorsed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, will be presented at the Experimental Biology annual meeting in Washington D.C. this weekend.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    It amazes me how brilliant marketers are and how they can influence people. Then it saddens me that they use that talent for this.

  • Anonymous

     It’s not only the organic label. Con Agra has a TV commercial showing a mother and little daughter in the fresh produce isle of a supermarket. Once the viewer has the image of the little girl surrounded by fresh fruit and vegetables with the accompanying VO exhorting the importance of nutritious food, the little girl runs off, ignoring the healthy, nutritious produce, and loads up with Con Agra packaged, processed food. That’s great, yet disgusting marketing.

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