The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that an indulgent label increased food consumption by one quarter compared to a basic description of the same food.
Over a period of 46 days, student diners at a large canteen on the university’s campus were given the option of choosing vegetables that have been divided into four categories—basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent—and the vegetables were all prepared in exactly the same way.
For example, green beans were labelled as ‘green beans’ (basic), ‘light ‘n’ low -carb green beans and shallots’ (healthy restrictive), ‘healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots’ (healthy positive) or ‘sweet-sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots’ (indulgent).
The study’s results revealed that student diners chose vegetables with indulgent labelling 25 percent more than basic labelling, 35 percent more than healthy positive, and 41 percent more than healthy restrictive.
On the basis of the volume of vegetables consumed per day, vegetables with indulgent labelling were consumed 16 percent more than those labelled healthy positive, 23 percent more than basic and 33 percent more than healthy restrictive.
For food manufacturers, the results suggest that describing healthy foods as delicious and indulgent may lead to more people choosing them over labels that focus on the healthy aspect of the food. This means healthy food may sell better when it comes with an indulgent label.