Insight of the Week: The simpler the information, the healthier the choice

Eating healthy is a priority for many consumers—at least they say so when asked in surveys. But in reality, factors like convenience and price often eclipse the need for healthy eating. A group of researchers tried to figure out what shoppers would need in order to be persuaded to eat healthier, and it turns out the answer may be simpler than expected.

This week’s insight: Give consumers more information in an easier-to-read format and they’ll often make healthier decisions.

Research study: “Healthy Choice: The Effect of Simplified Point-of-Sale Nutritional Information on Consumer Food Choice Behavior” by Hristina Dzhogleva Nikolova and J. Jeffrey Inman, Journal of Marketing Research, December 2015.

What they did: Researchers measured hypothetical consumer engagement with a in-store system that showed easy-to-read scores for the healthiness of various food products, then studied how that affected their purchases of higher-priced items.

What they found: When given data that showed health information for food products when they went to purchase the items, consumers ended choosing healthier food items even if they were more expensive.

The key to the study was simplicity. Instead of relying on consumers to seek out the nutritional facts on each individual item, the researchers presented the information in a format that required the least effort on the part of the shoppers—and presented the information in the most visually appealing way.

Though it dovetails with findings from user experience design and research, this study shows that consumers, when properly informed, tend to make the healthier decisions. But getting them to actually access that information is often the hardest part.

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