Consumers’ Health-Related Food Choices and Behaviors

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This dissertation offers three essays that investigate consumers’ health-related food choices and behaviors from three different, yet complementary, angles. The first essay uses an eye-tracking experiment to examine consumers’ visual

This dissertation offers three essays that investigate consumers’ health-related food choices and behaviors from three different, yet complementary, angles. The first essay uses an eye-tracking experiment to examine consumers’ visual attention to the Nutrition Facts Panels for healthy and unhealthy products. In this essay, I focus on how involvement and familiarity affect consumers’ attention toward the Nutrition Facts panel and how these two psychological factors interact with new label format changes in attracting consumers’ attention. In the second essay, I demonstrate using individual-level scanner data that nutritional attributes interact with marketing mix elements to affect consumers’ nutrition intake profiles and their intra-category substitution patterns. My findings suggest that marketing-mix sensitivities are correlated with consumers’ preferences for nutrient attributes in ways that depend on the “healthiness” of the nutrient. For instance, featuring promotes is positively correlated with “healthy” nutritional characteristics such as high-protein, low-fat, or low-carbohydrates, whereas promotion and display are positively correlated with preferences for “unhealthy” characteristics such as high-fat, or high-carbohydrates. I use model simulations to show that some marketing-mix elements are able to induce consumers to purchase items with higher maximum-content levels than others. The fourth chapter shows that dieters are not all the same. I develop and validate a new scale that measures lay theories about abstinence vs. moderation. My findings from a series of experiments indicate that dieters’ recovery from recalled vs. actual indulgences depend on whether they favor abstinence or moderation. However, compensatory coping strategies provide paths for people with both lay theories to recover after an indulgence, in their own ways. The three essays provide insights into individual differences that determine approaches of purchase behaviors, and consumption patterns, and life style that people choose, and these insights have potential policy implications to aid in designing the food-related interventions and policies to improve the healthiness of consumers’ consumption profiles and more general food well-being.