We (along with every other publication that covers the food industry) have published a huge number of articles recently about consumers wanting healthier food. We’ve also looked at several studies aimed at determining what healthy food claims are most important on labels.
For example, data from an L.E.K. Consulting study released earlier this year found that 93% of consumers want to eat healthy at least some of the time and that the label claims that are most interesting are those related to health and wellness.
In one of the biggest meta-analyses done to date, researchers from Tufts compiled the results of 60 studies comprising 2 million data points about the relationship between food labels and dietary choices. They found that labeling on food packaging, restaurant menus, and point-of-sale marketing led consumers to eat fewer calories, less fat, and more vegetables.
But, the results of a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science suggest that health claims aren’t enough. The most important thing is that healthy foods must also be tasty.
For this study, the researchers analyzed the vegetable selection and intake of diners at five university dining halls across the country over the course of 185 days. In total, they studied 137,842 diner decisions involving 24 types of vegetables. They found that labeling vegetables as tasty increased their selection by 14% compared to basic labels and 29% compared to health-focused labels. The authors conclude that “emphasizing tasty and enjoyable attributes increases vegetable intake in real-world settings in which vegetables compete with less healthy options.”
The take-home message for food companies marketing healthy products is “don’t forget about taste.” While almost all consumers look for healthy options when shopping, they still want food that tastes good. Putting both health-focused and taste-focused claims on food labels will help shoppers select food that will boost their health and delight their taste buds.