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?