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Jennifer Chait

Organic Labels May Turn Some Consumers Off

By December 10, 2012

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According to a recent Cornell University study, labeling some foods as "organic" may be off-putting to certain consumers. This new research, published online in the journal Appetite, is really interesting considering how consumers have been so supportive of organics over the last few years.

This research was completed in two parts, with the first part consisting of asking people whether or not they thought organic food was healthier and tastier than conventional food. During this part of the study, most people said that organics were a healthy choice but many did not expect organic food to taste good by comparison with conventional food. Jonathon Schuldt, Cornell assistant professor of communication, told Science Daily, "The personal values of the rater mattered. Our data suggest when organic practices do not appeal to a consumer's values, they expect organic food to taste worse."

During the second part of the study researchers looked at whether there were contexts in which people might have a negative impression of organic labels, even if the people were still environmental advocates. Results of the second stage showed that individuals who are highly pro-environment thought an organic version of a drink that was supposed to help treat severe malnutrition would be less effective than a non-organic version of the same drink.

The researchers note that this shows that you can't simply label a food, "organic" and expect people to think it's better. Worse, under the right circumstances, organic labeling may backfire, making people perceive organic food as worse than other food items. As Science Daily points out, this is a weird reverse halo effect. A normal halo effect will lead consumers to have a positive opinion or a healthful impression of something, based on the label. In this case, it didn't work.

Personally, I think this sort of issue is due to all those bunk labels out there. There are so many meaningless labels than consumers are simply getting frustrated with all labels. What do you think?

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December 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm
(1) Cathy Lyons says:

I agree that labeling has gone crazy with trying to make a product sound healthier, but it is also encouraging that this fact proves that agribusiness is feeling the pressure that organics are putting on them. We can probably expect more attacks as organic purchases increase.

Organic fruits and vegetables definitely taste better, although might not look as nice. Some organic products, such as cereals, may not taste as good. One could always add some raw honey, which is actually healthy and has nutrional value. The American diet has created addiction to sugar, corn fructose, fat and salt. Ones taste buds can be adjusted by slowly decreasing the intake of these substances and try organics to learn what real food tastes like. True Organics are healthier because they do not contain any contaminants.

It sounds to me that organic growers in Canada need to better educate their consumers. I do not know if Canada Government does anything in promoting it, nor how stringent their certification program is. They may just be more interested in fracking and making money.

Science has created chemicals to make food more attractive and taste yummy, tweaked genes so that crops can withstand poison, will not bruise during processing and shipping, have a longer shelf life, and pick unripe crops and fumigate them to look ripe, easier to peel, etc…….all to better appeal to the consumer brainwashed by gllitzy multimillion dollar advertisements and packaging

The bottom line is you are what you eat. Any elimination of toxins in your environment must be healthier since they are cumulative, and your food selection is one that you can control without having to protest in the streets or have a political pac lobby for you.

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